Tibetan monk burns himself to death in eastern Tibet

Tsewang Norbu in an undated photo. Protesting Chinese rule in Tibet, Tsewang Norbu burned himself to death on August 15, 2011.

DHARAMSHALA, August, 15: Tsewang Norbu, a 29-year old Tibetan monk from Nyitso monastery in Kham Kardze, eastern Tibet died today after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese rule in Tibet.

At around 12.30 Tibetan local time, Tsewang Norbu started raising slogans at the Chume Bridge in the centre of Tawu, Kardze calling for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Around 10 minutes later, Tsewang Norbu drank petrol, doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire.

Tsering Woeser, the Beijing based award winning Tibetan poet and blogger wrote on Twitter: “Tsewang threw free Tibet leaflets and shouted slogans, calling for a free Tibet and return of H.H. the Dalai Lama back to Tibet”.

"After ten minutes, he immolated himself on the national high road to Beijing, and died on the spot." Woeser tweeted. "Monks from Norbu's monastery took away the deceased’s body to the monastery and while preparing for the last rites and rituals, Chinese soldiers even tried to take away the body forcibly from the monks."

Sources in exile confirm that Tsewang Norbu took the extreme step following China’s growing restrictions on religious freedom and the intensification of political indoctrination in Tibet, particularly in the Tawu area of Kham Kardze. 

Last month, Tibetans in Tawu led by the nuns of Ganden Jangchup Choeling had defied governmental restrictions and came out in strength to celebrate the 76th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Since then, monasteries and nunneries in the region have been facing growing restrictions from the Chinese authorities.

Chemi Tenzin, a monk at Ganden monastery in south India and a native of Tawu told Phayulthat “the Chinese authorities had cut off electricity and water supply to Nyitso monastery and nunnery in Tawu since His Holiness’ birthday celebrations.”

“Following the incident, China has stepped up security in the region and cordoned off the Monastery, putting others monks of the monastery at very high risk,” Chemi said.

The London based group, Free Tibet, in a release today reported on the stringent measures the Chinese authorities had immediately taken to stem the flow of information from the region.

“In the last few hours telephone lines have been cut and internet cafes closed in an effort to control news spreading across Tibet and to prevent news being shared with the outside world”, Free Tibet said.

In support of the continuing call for freedom from Tibetans inside Tibet and to pay homage to Tsewang Norbu, Tibetans in Dharamshala carried a candle light vigil to Tsug-la Khang, the main temple. The vigil was jointly organised by the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Dharamshala, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet, Tibetan Women’s Association, and Students for a Free Tibet-India.

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