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Two Tibetan laywomen die from self-immolation


Ilona Lo Iacono
WVoN co-editor

Two Tibetan women have died in separate acts of self-immolation in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Ganzu Provinces, China.

Tsering Kyi, a 20-year-old school student, set fire to herself and walked into a Chinese-run vegetable market in Menma Town in eastern Tibet (Ganzu Province), late on Saturday afternoon.

Chinese security personnel reportedly locked the gates to the market, preventing anyone from leaving the area, after receiving calls from two Chinese vendors.

A statement released by the India-based Tibetan parliament-in-exile said that “all mobile phones were confiscated in an attempt the stop the news of the protest from spreading. People at the scene of the protest were issued strict orders against speaking about the self-immolation.”

“The Chinese vendors at the Machu vegetable market threw stones at her burning body,” an exiled source told Radio Free Asia.

“The Tibetans present in the market were agitated and this almost resulted in a major clash between the Tibetans and Chinese.”

Tsering’s family said that, a few days prior to setting herself on fire, she had visited them and said:

“In Ngaba and other areas of Tibet, Tibetans are burning themselves. We should do something for Tibet – life is meaningless if we don’t do something for Tibet.”

However, Chinese authorities told those present at the market that Tsering had set fire to herself for personal reasons, related to a “love interest”, and that it was not a political act.

Witnesses claimed that the authorities put Tsering’s body in a sack and removed it; her family have been informed that it is in police custody.

On Sunday morning, Rinchen, a 32-year-old woman, set fire to herself in front of the police surveillance station at the main gate into Kirti Monastery in Ngaba Town, Eastern Tibet (referred to by the Chinese as Aba, Sichuan Province).

Rinchen was widowed a year ago and was the mother of four children. It is believed that she had travelled from her home in a nomadic settlement in order to burn herself in Ngaba, where more than 15 self-immolations have taken place since March 20011.

She died at the scene, and local people took her body into the monastery.

The monastery has been under siege by Chinese security forces and hundreds of its monks have been taken into custody since early last year.

The women’s suicides mark an escalation in the use of self-immolation as a form of protest in the region: they are reportedly the first laywomen to commit such an act.

China considers self-immolation an act of violence and terrorism, and has accused the “splittist” Dalai Lama and the “Dalai Lama clique” of encouraging the act.

The Dalai Lama, however, has blamed the unrest on China’s “ruthless and illogical” policy towards Tibet.

He also told the BBC in 2010 that those who set themselves on fire were brave, but that their sacrifice was not wise because it resulted in a tougher crackdown by the Chinese authorities.

“Courage alone is no substitute,” he said. “You must utilize your wisdom.”

Li Decheng, a Chinese Tibetologist, told the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, that killing oneself or others, or instigating such killing, constitute “grave sins,” and those who commit sins of this kind “must be expelled from the Buddhist circle, disqualified as a monk or nun and condemned to hell.”

Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden commented:

“Tibetans are living under de facto martial law. China’s response to protests – which are increasingly widespread – has been to intensify repression and surveillance, pushing Tibet deeper into crisis.”

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