[14 July 2015] On 9 July, a Tibetan monk self-immolated in a public square in eastern Tibet. Sonam Topgyal was quickly apprehended by local authorities and is believed to be in hospital, however due to a subsequent crackdown on local communications, his current condition and whereabouts are unknown.
The protest, by 26 year-old monk Sonam Topgyal from Derge monastery, took place at approximately 6pm in Gesar Square (pictured right, as security forces approach scene of the self-immolation) in Jyekundo (aka Kyegundo, Chinese: Yushu) town, Jyekundo prefecture, Kham (now incorporated into China’s Qinghai province).
The motivation for the protest is not immediately clear, however the proximity to the Dalai Lama’s birthday and location suggest that Topgyal’s actions were a direct challenge to China’s rule in the region. In addition to the widespread repression reported within Tibet, Jyekundo has been the target of a land-grabbing campaign by developers backed by the Chinese government after an earthquake in 2010 left the region devastated.
According to a source quoted by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, immediately after the protest, “A large contingent of Chinese security forces immediately arrived at the spot of the self-immolation and blocked all the main roads.” Internet and telephone services were also blocked in the region.
Sonam’s protest is the sixth self-immolation in Tibet this year and brings the total number of Tibetan who have self-immolated within Tibet since 2009 to 141.