Another Tibetan teenager burned himself to death Saturday in protest against Chinese rule in Gansu province in the eighth self-immolation this week, sources said.
The latest burning brings to 70 the total number of self-immolations highlighting opposition to Chinese rule in Tibetan populated areas.
The protests this week are believed to have been timed to send a powerful signal to the Chinese Communist Party which is holding its 18th Party Congress in Beijing to endorse a once-in-a-decade leadership change, Tibetan groups said.
On Saturday, 19-year-old Gonpo Tsering set himself alight in front of a monastery in Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on Saturday, a Tibetan source told RFA’s Tibetan service.
As he burned, he called for “freedom for Tibetans, the return of [Tibet’s spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom of languages,” the source said.
Monks and other local Tibetans had wanted to take Gonpo Tsering to hospital but his condition was too critical and he was instead taken home, where he died, the source said.
After the burning, “Chinese security bureau officers arrived at the scene and they started investigating and questioning the monks and local Tibetans,” the source said.
It took longer than usual for local Tibetans to relay the news of the self-immolation to those outside the Tsoe area due to communication curbs imposed by Chinese authorities, according to sources.
The burning was reported early Saturday by Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
“Owing to earlier self-immolations in Kanlho, there was a complete communication blackout, resulting it difficulty in getting details of the situation on the ground,” the source said.
The past week saw the biggest number of Tibetan self-immolations since the burning protests began in February 2009.
Earlier this week, there were three burnings in Rebgong county (in Chinese, Tongren) in Qinghai province, including the fatal self-immolation of a 23-year-old mother, and those of three teenage monks in Sichuan province’s Ngaba town and a man in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
One of the three monks—all of whom are from the Ngoshul monastery—died on the spot.
The two others were taken away in a serious condition by the Chinese authorities and are believed to be alive but their families were unable to see them, said Kanyag Tsering, a monk living in exile in India.
“Since they were not told anything about the condition of their boys and about the hospital to which they had been taken, everyone is so worried about them,” he said.
The monks of the Ngoshul Monastery have also been barred from visiting the homes of the three monks and performing prayers for them.
“There is a heavy military presence outside the Ngoshul Monastery and surrounding areas of Gomang subdivision [in which the burnings occurred],” Kanyag Tsering said
On Friday, several thousand Tibetan students had taken to the streets in Rebgong county, shouting slogans calling for “equality of nationalities and freedom of languages” and demanding the return of the Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India.
A day earlier, about 700 students pulled down Chinese flags hoisted on top of their school building in Dowa township and in the township’s government office.
The Central Tibetan Administration, as the Tibetan government-in-exile in India is called, said the rising number of self-immolations underscore “political repression, economic marginalization, environmental destruction, and cultural assimilation” problems facing Tibetans.
“Chinese leaders selected during the 18th Party Congress must recognize that China’s hardline policies in Tibet have utterly failed and only through dialogue can a peaceful and lasting solution be found,” Lobsang Sangay, the head of the exile government, said this week.
“We firmly believe that an end to repression will effectively end the cycle of self-immolation,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul and Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.