A teenage Tibetan Buddhist nun set herself on fire on Saturday in the latest self-immolation against Chinese rule as protesters torched government buildings in southwestern Sichuan province, exile sources said.
Tenzin Choedron, aged 18 and from the Mamo Nunnery in the Ngaba (Aba, in Chinese) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, shouted slogans against the Chinese government as she was burning before security forces hauled her away, the sources said, quoting local contacts.
Choedron was the 23rd Tibetan—and the third nun—to have self-immolated since February 2009 when Beijing stepped up a clampdown on monasteries and rounded up hundreds of protesting monks.
Thirteen of the 23 who self-immolated are known to have died following their protests, according to advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet.
Choedron is believed to have suffered serious burns.
“She did not die on the spot, but soldiers and police came immediately and took her away, towards Barkham [Ma’erkang, in Chinese, county],” monks Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering said from India’s hill town Dharamsala, where Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama lives.
“After that, soldiers surrounded the nunnery and sealed it off, and nothing more is known of the situation inside,” the monks said in a statement to RFA.
Choedron was described by local Tibetans as quiet, hardworking and courageous.
“She followed the rules, studied hard, and got excellent grades. She was smart as well as brave,” Yeshe and Tsering said.
Saturday’s self-immolation capped a week of massive protests and tensions in Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces that signaled a hardening crackdown by Chinese authorities on dissent by Tibetans.
On Thursday, security forces shot and killed a Tibetan monk and his brother who had been involved in protests against Chinese rule in Draggo (Luhuo, in Chinese) county in Sichuan province.
On the same day, an unidentified Tibetan monk had self-immolated to protest Tibetans’ plight in neighboring Qinghai province’s Tridu (Chenduo, in Chinese) county, the scene of protests against Chinese rule by several thousand Tibetans on Wednesday.
Sources also said on Saturday that Tibetan protesters had set fire to two government buildings this week in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan to protest Chinese rule.
The suspected arsons occurred mid-week in government buildings in Nangdo town in Dege county and Zame town in Kardze county, a Tibetan source in Australia said on Saturday, citing local contacts.
The building in Zame was completely razed but fire in the other building in Nangdo was put out quickly after a Tibetan reported the incident to the authorities. No one was injured and there had been no arrests.
Tensions rose in Nangdo after a poster in Chinese appeared, warning of death to the Tibetan who reported the arson to the authorities.
Ngaba, where nun Choedron self-immolated Saturday, has been the scene of persistent protests over the last year.
Her Mamo or Dechen Choekorling Nunnery houses 350 nuns and is one of the biggest nunneries in Ngaba. It is close to the Kirti monastery which has been under continuous siege by Chinese security forces and from where hundreds of monks have been taken away by security forces last year.
Nuns from Mamo nunnery had been in the forefront of protests against Chinese rule. They took part in a protest in March 2008 and faced harsh questioning from Chinese security forces, according to exile monks. A few of them were arrested, and among them three were sent to jail for three to four years, they said.
Reported by Nurbu Damdul and Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translation by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.