Family members of a Tibetan farmer who became the first Tibetan in 2013 to die of self-immolation protest against the Chinese government were barred from holding necessary rites and rituals for the deceased and forced to do the cremation in secret during night.
On 12 January 2013, Tsering Tashi aka Tsebhe, 22, set his body on fire and died in the main street of Amchok (Ch: Amuqu) town in Sangchu (Ch: Xiahe) County, Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. Eyewitnesses say Tsebhe shouted the name of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso!” even as flames devoured his body. He died immediately at the protest site. Eyewitnesses say Tsebhe was dressed in full traditional Tibetan attire and had tied his body with wires when he set himself ablaze.
The following day, Chinese authorities threatened the family members of Tsebhe with dire consequences if they held the religious rituals for the deceased, as is the norm among Tibetan Buddhists. When the family protested, the authorities threatened severe consequences all in the village if they did not follow orders. One of the officials also accused the family of having close ties with “the splittist Dalai clique.”
The authorities then ordered Tsebhe’s family to cremate the deceased during night to preempt large-scale gatherings. Police barred local villagers and monks from Amchok Monastery to pay their last respects and condolences to the family members. On the night of 13 January, Tsebhe was quietly cremated when many in the neighborhood were asleep and only a few people were allowed to attend the funeral.
Sources with contacts in the region say Tsebhe’s mother was admitted to hospital after she suffered a stroke caused by the official order to bar religious rituals for her deceased son. Tsebhe’s father was compelled to oblige the order to avoid imminent threat against the livelihood and security of his hometown.
Tsebhe is survived by his parents, wife Yumtso Kyi, and two siblings.