|[3 March 2016] Two Tibetans have died after self-immolating on 29 February, the first such protests in six months. Kalsang Wangdu, a young monk, died shortly after setting fire to himself in Kardze county in eastern Tibet. On the same day, Dorjee Tsering, a teenage boy living in northern India, also self-immolated. Dorjee died on 3 March. Both Tibetans had called for independence for Tibet during their protests. It is not believed the two incidents were connected.
Kalsang Wangdu (Tibet) | Dorjee Tsering (India) | Take Action | Background
Kalsang was a monk at Retsokha Aryaling monastery in Nyagrong county. He joined the monastery in 2014 and was studying meditation. He had returned to his home village to conduct funeral rites for a deceased man.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), following the self-immolation local Chinese police placed Kalsang’s family under surveillance. Initially the police ordered family members not to speak to anyone, but have since been told to say his death was due to a random fire at the monk’s home. It is reported that Kalsang’s body has been returned to his family home.
This is the first self-immolation inside Tibet since 27 August 2015, when Tashi Kyi, a mother of five, died after setting herself on fire in an apparent protest against China’s forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads. A total of 143 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet since 2009. A further Tibetan self-immolated in Beijing in 2012, and seven others in exile. The majority of self-immolators are known to have used their protest to call for freedom for Tibet and/or the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
Further reading: TCHRD | RFA (1 Mar) | RFA (3 Mar) | Tibet Post | CTA
Dorjee undertook his protest at around 8.30am local time, near a housing complex for elderly Tibetans. He repeatedly called the slogan “Tibet is a free country”. His mother was present during his self-immolation, and tried to save him by dragging him under a tap to extinguish the fire. Dorjee was taken to Safdurjung Hospital where he was treated for burns covering 95% of his body.
Before he succumbed to his injuries, Dorjee spoke from his hospital bed. He said, “I have always felt like I needed to do something for the Tibetan cause. Yesterday, I felt as if burning myself up was the only resort left for me… I want His Holiness the Dalai Lama to live long and Tibet to achieve its independence.” He added that he believed his protest will “evoke shock” from those who hear of his protest, and that “countries like England… will know of Tibet and support for us will strengthen”.
Dorjee was a student at Tibetan Homes School in Mussoorie in northern India. He is survived by his parents and four siblings.
Dorjee is the seventh exiled Tibetan to self-immolate in protest against China’s occupation of Tibet. The last self-immolation in exile was undertaken by Karma Ngedon Gyatso on 6 August 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Four of the exiled self-immolations have taken place in India and three in Nepal.
Further reading: Phayul | RFA | TCHRD | CTA (4 Mar)
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