A 17-year-old Tibetan monk from the western Chinese province of Sichuan immolated himself on Monday, making it the fifth case of its kind in China this year.
Kalsang Wangchuk, a monk from Ngaba County’s Kirti Monastery, set himself on fire near a vegetable market in Ngaba Town while holding a photograph of the Dalai Lama and shouting, “There are no religious rights and freedom in Tibet.”
While full details of the incident have yet to emerge, Free Tibet, a London-based NGO campaigning for Tibetan rights, and the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet reported that according to some exiled sources, the police extinguished the fire, beat Kelsang Wangchuk, and took him away. After the arrest, the whole town was put under police and military control to prevent anyone from entering or exiting.
Two young monks from the same monastery, Lobsang Kalsang and Lobsang Konchok, set themselves on fire a week ago, on Sept. 26. The well being and whereabouts of the three monks remains unknown, although Kalsang Wangchuk’s upper body was said to be in bad shape prior to his arrest.
“A growing number of Tibetans clearly feel that this is the only way that they can be heard,” said Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden in a statement. “This is an extremely worrying and absolutely unprecedented trend that we hope will end.”
The International Campaign for Tibet said that the self-immolation by the monks highlights the depressing situation in Kirti Monastery, which Chinese police and military personnel have occupied since this spring.
Jampel Monlam, head of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy based in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, told Radio Free Asia that the Chinese soldiers, police, and plainclothes police frequently carry out “patriotic and law enforcement propaganda campaigns” on the monks, who are pressured to renounce their allegiance to the Dalai Lama and pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Those who don’t are ejected.
“A lot of monks and lamas have been kicked out, and there are only 500 or so monks left behind there,” he told RFA. “There used to be more than 2,500, and now there are only a few hundred.”
Despite the dramatic protests, the Chinese regime seems reluctant to change its Tibet policies, and state-run propaganda outlets have remained largely silent about the burnings.
“The Chinese regime’s intention to eradicate religions under the guidance of atheism is exactly the opposite of the profound belief of the Tibetans,” Xia Ming, a political science and economics professor at the City University of New York, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia. “This sharp conflict will never be resolved under the regime’s policies.”
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