[5 June 2015] Sangye Tso (pictured right, also referred to as Sangyal Tso) set herself ablaze around 4am local time on 27 May in front of a government office located within Tashi Choekorling monastery in Dortok township (pictured below), Chone (Chinese: Zhuoni) county, Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Amdo (now part of China’s Gansu province). The 36 year-old mother of two died at the scene.
According to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), immediately prior to her protest, Sangye placed a portrait of the Dalai Lama and a bunch of incense sticks outside the gates of the local government office. Slogans had been written on the portrait, including “Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama”, “Freedom for Tibet” and “Human Rights for Tibet”.
Sangye is also understood to have sent a message via the instant messaging service WeChat just before self-immolating, at around 3.30am. However, due to a communications blackout imposed by the Chinese authorities the content of the message is not known.
The location of the self-immolation was significant as, according to a source quoted by International Campaign for Tibet, it is “symbolic to locals of policies of injustice against Tibetans, as well as the main offices used to enforce the crackdown against protests in 2008”.
After the self-immolation, Sangye’s body was taken by local police to Tsoe city, the capital of Kanlho prefecture. Police were deployed to her home and her family ordered not to discuss the self-immolation with others and to lie about the death by saying it was from natural causes. Further reports indicate Tso’s parents were confined to their home and questioned in the aftermath of the self-immolation.
On 28 May, the ashes of Sangye were returned to her family. By cremating the body, the Chinese authorities denied the family a traditional funeral.
Also on 28 May, Tenzin Soepa, a nephew of Sangye, was detained by the local authorities. No official reason was given for the detention, however, local sources told TCHRD he has been made a “scapegoat as part of the crackdowns on self-immolation protests”. Tenzin is studying as a monk at Tashi Choekorling monastery. His current condition and whereabouts are not known.
Sangye Tso’s self-immolation is the fifth to take place this year, and 140th overall inside Tibet. (Some reports refer to 141 self-immolations, which include the self-immolation of a Tibetan in Beijing in 2012. Six Tibetans in exile are also known to have self-immolated.)