Beijing Blocks News of Popular Tibetan Singer’s Self-Immolation

By Kane Zhang
Kane Zhang
Kane Zhang
March 25, 2022 Updated: March 25, 2022

The news that China’s popular Tibetan singer Tsewang Norbu died from self-immolation in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet in protest of Beijing’s tyranny has been strictly blocked by the Chinese regime. Many local Tibetans still don’t know about his death, while others told The Epoch Times that they dared not comment on this matter. 

On March 20, the Chinese-language Epoch Times tried to reach locals in Tsewang Norbu’s hometown, Nagqu, Tibet. A hotel employee in Nagqu replied, “I haven’t heard about Tsewang Norbu’s death. He is so famous and so young. How could he have died? Our local news did not report it, and no one knows about it.” 

In the evening that same day, the Chinese-language Epoch Times reporter called another hotel in Lhasa. A woman answered the phone nervously and said, “How dare you ask about this, there are some things you can’t say. If you don’t plan to book our hotel, let’s stop here.” Then she hung up the phone. 

According to a March 16 report by the Voice of Tibet, on the afternoon of Feb. 25, Tsewang Norbu, a 26-year-old Tibetan singer, staged a self-immolation at the White Pagoda in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa to protest the Chinese regime’s repression. He shouted slogans before setting himself on fire. Police immediately rushed to the site and took him away. The Chinese authorities quickly blocked the entire square and checked the dash cams of passing vehicles and people’s mobile phones. A few days later, it was reported that Tsewang Norbu had died. Due to strict surveillance by the CCP, video or audio evidence of the scene cannot be obtained at present. 

On March 15, the International Campaign for Tibet also posted on its website that the famous Tibetan singer Tsewang Norbu died of severe burns at the Tibet Autonomous Region Hospital, a hospital near Potala Palace. In order to block the news of his death from the outside world, the Chinese authorities deployed a large number of security personnel and plainclothes police to control the city of Lhasa and the hospital. 

According to the Central Tibetan Administration, it was on March 2 that the Chinese authorities contacted Tsewang Norbu’s family and informed them that Tsewang Norbu had passed away. However, his body was not given to his family, but was secretly cremated by the authorities. 

Born on October 9, 1996, Tsewang Norbu graduated from the Music Department of Tibet University. In 2014, he participated in a TV talent show and impressed the judges by combining the piano with Tibetan songs beautifully.

In 2017, he participated in the music show The Coming One, organized by Tencent Video. His performance of the folk song “Nomad’s Ballad” advanced him to the top 12 finalists. Later, through many stages of competition, he advanced to the top 4 of the Shengshi Magic rank and top 9 in the national finals. He was finally eliminated in the first competition of the 9 finalists and won the ninth place in the national finals.

Not only did Norbu sing modern, folk, traditional, and ethnic songs, but he also composed music and lyrics. He is popular among the Tibet community at home and abroad. His original Tibetan song “Returning Home” described his love for his hometown in ethnic singing style. It was well received in China and was praised by Liao Changyong, president of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

His parents are both talented performers.  His uncle Sogkhar Lodoe, a renowned political prisoner, was sentenced to 18 additional years in prison in March 2019, after being imprisoned for 23 years.

On Feb. 25, the day of his self-immolation, Norbu posted four black-and-white photos of himself on Weibo, matching them with text that said, “One may feel relieved after feeling sorrowful. I hope that you will not stick to the state of sorrow when you run into a sorrowful situation.”

His Weibo account where he has nearly 600,000 followers is still accessible but has been disabled. New comments cannot be posted.

According to the Voice of Tibet, since 2009, 157 Tibetan monks and laymen have set themselves on fire to protest the CCP’s tyranny. The outlet called on the international community to provide more help to Tibetans.

Kane Zhang