19/11/2019

Monk dies of self-immolation calling for Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet

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Kelsang Yeshi
Kelsang Yeshi

Exile Tibetan media have reported yet another self-immolation yesterday of a monk in Tawu (Ch: Daofu) County in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, in the Tibetan province of Kham.

Kelsang Yeshi, 38, a monk at Tawu Nyatso Monastery and a social activist set himself ablaze at around 11.20 am (local time) on 23 December before the entrance gate of a police station inside the monastery compounds. The monk who had studied in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in south India called for “the return of Dalai Lama to Tibet” and “freedom for Tibetans” as he set his body on fire. 

Shortly after his self-immolation, local police arrived at the scene and swiftly took away Kelsang’s body to Tawu County detention centre, reported an exile Tibetan language newspaper. Local Tibetans turned up in huge numbers demanding that the body be returned for proper cremation since Kelsang had already died and there was no point in holding his body in police custody. Local Tibetans saw the police nonchalantly throwing off Kelsang’s burning body at the back of a vehicle. Police also shot a few rounds in the air to intimidate the Tibetans who demanded that the body be released immediately. Police also used sirens to scare off and break the crowd.

Kelsang Yeshi, son of Dorjee and Jampa, was born and raised in Thewa Township in Tawu. In the past, he had studied at Gaden Jangtse Monastery in south India before returning to Tibet. In Tibet, he started working with different reincarnated religious leaders and abbots, and initiated programs to eradicate illiteracy among rural Tibetans in Tawu, Drango and other Tibetan areas in Kardze. He also founded a 100-member strong social welfare association in his hometown in Tawu.

Kelsang Yeshi became the third Tibetan this month to self-immolate in protest against the Chinese government in Tibet.

Last year on 6 July, China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) personnel beat and fired teargas on hundreds of Tibetans who had gathered near Machen Pomra Mountain in Tawu County to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama. Tsewang Choephel, a senior monk and administrative staff at Nyatso Monastery was shot at multiple times on his hands and legs. Gyaltsen, a Tibetan layman and environmental activist from Dunkye camp suffered two broken ribs and many others in the group also sustained serious injuries. At least 14 known Tibetans were injured in the firing and others were detained.

Soon after the bloody crackdown on Dalai Lama’s birthday, official Chinese media reported that local authorities in Tawu had vowed to crack down on any signs of ‘separatist’ sentiments and activities by implementing five major ‘stability maintenance’ measures which includes increased surveillance and monitoring enabled by the stationing of cadres in Tibetan homes and increasing the number of police force and grassroots party cadres.

 

Endnotes: 

1. “China tightens the screw after shooting Tibetan worshippers in Tawu”, 31 AUGUST 2013, TCHRD, http://tchrd.org/newsite/2013/08/china-tightens-the-screw-after-shooting-tibetan-worshippers-in-tawu/

2.”More injured by gunshots than earlier reported in Tawu”, 17 JULY 2013, TCHRD, http://tchrd.org/newsite/2013/07/more-injured-by-gunshots-than-earlier-reported-in-tawu-shootings/

3. “Senior monk among the latest identified in Tawu shootings”, 11 JULY 2013, TCHRD,  http://tchrd.org/newsite/2013/07/senior-monk-among-the-latest-identified-in-tawu-shootings-2/

4. “Environmental activist suffers broken ribs after savage beatings in Tawu”, 10 JULY 2013, TCHRD, http://tchrd.org/newsite/2013/07/environmental-activist-suffers-broken-ribs-after-savage-beatings-in-tawu/