Self-immolations in Tibet, 2009-2014

The first reported self-immolation occurred on 27 February 2009 in the town of Aba, Sichuan province, southwest China. A 27-year-old Tibetan monk, Tapey (also known as Lobsang Tashi), was shot dead by police after setting himself on fire.
Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7916544.stm

Since then 133 Tibetans  (112 men, 21 women) have set themselves on fire:

  • 107 of the 133 are known to have died following their protest
  • 24 of the Tibetans who self-immolated were aged 18 or under
  • 44 of the 133 were from Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province
  • 13 of the 133 were monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba
  • 11 of the 133 were former monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba 
  • 2 of the 133 were nuns from Mame Dechen Chokorling nunnery in Ngaba

 

Why self-immolations?

The latest major unrest in Tibet took place in spring 2008, shortly before the beginning of the Bejing Summer Olympic Games. Since then, the yearning for freedom and independence has become widespread among Tibetans. 

According to Tsering Woeser – together with Wang Lixiong one of China’s best-known thinkers on government policy toward ethnic minorities – the current self-immolations are continuations of the 2008 pan-Tibet protests. However, the reasons for the self-immolations are varied, she adds.

Wang Lixiong has documented  the dying words of the 97 people who self immolated up until the end of 2012. He classified the reasons as follows:

  • Suffering from an unbearable situation
  • Expressing courage and responsibility – for the dignity of the Tibetan nation
  • Expressing protest and demands – calling for Tibetan independence
  • Praying for the Dalai Lama – religious dedication

In their final words 14 self-immolators described their immolations as targeted actions, Wang Lixiong writes. They expected "that their sacrifices would help achieve their goal" rather than merely express protests or desperation. And Wang Lixiong concludes: "Self-immolation is the most extreme act of struggle an individual can resort to."

Here the sad summary:

  • 112 men, 21 women (=133)
  • 107 of the 133 are known to have died following their protest
  • 24 of the Tibetans who self-immolated were 18 or under
  • 44 of the 133 are from Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province
  • 13 of the 133 were monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba
  • 11 of the 133 are former monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba (It is currently not known who of the nine chose to disrobe, or were expelled from the monastery by government authorities)
  • 2 of the 133 were nuns from Mame Dechen Chokorling nunnery in Ngaba
  • 132 of the self-immolations have occurred since March 16, 2011

 

The first self-immolation in Tibetan society in the modern era took place in exile in Delhi, India, on April 27, 1998, when Thubten Ngodrup set himself on fire – and later died – as a Tibetan Youth Congress hunger strike was broken up by Indian police. -