Tibetan farmer dies after self-immolation protest

DHARAMSHALA: A Tibetan farmer has died after setting himself on fire in Ngaba region in northeastern Tibet to protest against the Chinese rule in Tibet, pushing the total number of self-immolations to 121, media reports and a human rights group say.

Shichung, a 41-year-old farmer and father of two children, left a prayer service in his native Gomang town for his home on Saturday (28 Sept) evening. He prayed in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s portrait at his home. He then lit his body on fire outside his home and ran towards the main road shouting slogans against the repressive policies of the Chinese government in Tibet. He died on the spot.

When local Tibetans tried to take the body into their custody, the Chinese police deployed at the prayer service threatened them at gun point from doing so. Fearing that Tibetans will suffer heavy casualties at the time, some elder Tibetans tried to prevent a fatal confrontation. The body of Shichung was then allowed to be kept at his home for sometime. Later, the Chinese police forcibly took away the body in a car towards Ngaba county.

Few days ago, Sichung had told many of his friends that “the Chinese would not let us live”.

Though farming was his family’s mainstay, he was also a skilled tailor and used to sell clothes during Monlam (prayer)festival in his locality.He is survived by his wife, Palo, 36, and an 18-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.The Chinese government has deployed heavy security forces in the area following the incident.

The Central Tibetan Administration said the Chinese government’s continued occupation of Tibet and policies of political repression, cultural assimilation economic marginalisation, environmental destruction are solely responsible for pushing Tibetans to take drastic forms of protests, including self-immolations. The self-immolators have called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans.

Last year, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged Chinese authorities to promptly address the grievances that have led to an alarming escalation in self-immolation protests in Tibetan areas. The UN human rights chief said she was disturbed by “allegations of violence against Tibetans seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, association and religion,” and pointed to reports of detentions and disappearances, of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and curbs of the cultural rights of the Tibetans.”

“Social stability in Tibet will never be achieved through heavy security measures and suppression of human rights,” Ms Pillay said. “Deep underlying issues need to be addressed, and I call on the Government to seriously consider the recommendations made to it by various international human rights bodies, as well as to avail itself of the expert advice being offered by the UN’s independent experts on human rights.”