In the most dramatic incident of its kind, three Tibetan teenage monks, a young mother, and another Tibetan, set themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule on the eve of the Communist Party’s 18th National Party Congress.
The three monks, aged 15 and 16, set themselves on fire in Sichuan Province’s Ngaba near Ngoshul Monastery, where a number of self-immolations have taken place in recent months, according to the Free Tibet advocacy group. The 15-year-old monk, named Dorjee, died and two survived, but their whereabouts are currently unknown.
Tibetan exile leaders have called for an end to the self-immolations. They and human rights groups say that Tibetans are driven to setting themselves on fire out of desperation because of repressive policies used by the Chinese regime.
Local Chinese authorities stepped up security in the area, as is usually the practice when such an incident takes place.
“The three self-immolated in front of the Ngatoe Gomang police station in the evening” in the afternoon on Wednesday, exiled monk Lobsang Yeshi told Radio Free Asia. He said that surviving monks Samdrub and Dorje Kyab were taken to a local hospital.
It is the first time that three Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the same place, and it is the first time that five self-immolation incidents took place on the same day. Now, around 68 Tibetan self-immolations have taken place since early 2009 and many of those who partook were young monks.
The Tibetans likely chose to burn themselves ahead of the start of the anticipated 18th National Party Congress that starts on Thursday. The Congress will last a week, and will see a leadership change in the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party. In recent days in some Tibetan areas, the Chinese regime has cut telecommunications and electricity lines, deployed security forces, and sentenced monks and other Tibetans to long jail terms, according to Tibetan groups.
A 23-year-old young Tibetan mother identified as Tamdrin Tso from Malho prefecture in Qinghai Province also set herself on fire and died at the scene, reported RFA.
“Over the last 15 days, Tamdrin Tso had performed prayers for other self-immolation protesters in Tibet, and today she set herself on fire,” said Dorje Wangchuk of Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala, India, who quoted sources inside Tibetan areas.
In the fifth incident, a Tibetan set themselves ablaze in Driru county, Nagchu prefecture, of the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to the broadcaster.
“There was a lot of commotion, and there were shouts at the scene by the Tibetans. The Chinese security forces arrived immediately, but details, such as the name of the self-immolator, remain unknown,” said a Tibetan monk, who was not identified.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in an address on self-immolations, called on Chinese authorities to address the grievances of Tibetans.
“I recognize Tibetans’ intense sense of frustration and despair which has led them to resort to such extreme means,” Pillay said last Friday. “But there are other ways to make those feelings clear.”
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