Earlier today, a Tibetan monk set himself on fire in southwestern China in front of a local government building. He was the second monk to die of self-immolation this year, in a growing wave of protest against repressive Chinese policies toward Tibetan monasteries and culture. Witnesses said that the monk, named Tsewang Norbu, called out “We Tibetan people want freedom,” “Long live the Dalai Lama,” and “Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet” as he died.
“I saw a monk lying on the ground and burning, he died right in front of the county government building. Before setting himself on fire, he was distributing leaflets,” an anonymous receptionist told the AFP.
Many monks in the area still pledge their allegiance to the exiled Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959. Allegations that monks have been forcibly removed from their monasteries and sent to “re-education camps” have been denied by the Chinese government, but anger and resentment are clearly rising in the area. Norbu was from the Nyitso Monastery in Tawu.
The self-immolation of another monk, Phuntsok, earlier this year, spurred intense crackdowns in the region. In a press release, the organization Free Tibet expressed its anxiety that similar violent action could occur in the wake of Norbu’s death.
“We have grave concerns over what could unfold in Tawu,” Director Stephanie Brigden observed. ”In the last few hours telephone lines have been cut and internet cafes closed in an effort to control news spreading across Tibet and to prevent news being shared with the outside world. We have received reports that the army has surrounded the monastery. We call on the Chinese authorities to act proportionately.”
We will, of course, let you know if Chinese authorities do not act appropriately, and if further violence unfolds in this troubled region of China. In the meantime, we can mourn the death of another monk who lost his life while protesting human rights and religious freedom abuses in Tibet.
Photo from waterwin via flickr.