A screen grab of a video which captured the self-immolation of Wangchuk Tseten on April 15.

Footage has emerged of a self-immolation on Saturday (April 15) of a Tibetan man, father of three Wangchuk Tseten, just a month after another self-immolation also in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) town in eastern Tibet. Wangchuk Tseten was from the same nomadic area of Nyagrong as 24-year old farmer Pema Gyaltsen, who set fire to himself on March 18 and who may have survived.

A video circulating online shows police spraying fire extinguishers on a blackened, smoky body lying on the ground. Another man in uniform who appears to be carrying a long pole appears to be seeking to block onlookers from approaching the body. (The video can be viewed at VOA.) Two other men, one in a red armband and one in a blue armband, are seen rushing towards the police and self-immolator. Across Tibet, as part of a comprehensive ‘grid management’ security system, so-called ‘Red Armband Patrols’ – security volunteers – are increasingly active in surveillance and monitoring of people’s everyday lives.

A source told Radio Free Asia that Chinese police swiftly took Wangchuk Tseten away after extinguishing the flames.[1] The Dharamsala-based Voice of Tibet radio has reported that he has died.[2]

According to exile Tibetan sources, the self-immolation occurred at the main square in Kardze town, in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, the Tibetan area of Kham, in the morning of April 15 (2017). Little is known about Wangchuk Tseten – there are stringent controls on communication in an attempt to block information flow in the area – but according to the same sources he is from a nomadic region in Nyagrong (Chinese: Xinlong) county, Kardze.[3]

On March 18, Pema Gyaltsen, a young farmer, set fire to himself in Kardze town in the Tibetan area of Kham in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, and was taken away immediately to Chengdu, according to Tibetan sources. It is not known if he is still alive.[4]

Wangchuk Tseten is the 148th Tibetan to set himself on fire in Tibet since 2009, in one of the most sweeping and significant waves of self-immolation as political protest globally.[5] The self-immolations have frequently occurred in clusters; the first self-immolation occurred in February, 2009, by a monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), Sichuan, followed by the self-immolation of another Kirti monk, Phuntsog, in 2011. In Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) in Qinghai, a number of Tibetans set fire to themselves in 2012, followed by gatherings of hundreds of Tibetans calling for the Dalai Lama’s long life and his return to Tibet.[6]

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “Every single self-immolation is profoundly shocking and horrific to contemplate. Wangchuk Tseten’s self-immolation tells us that the situation in Kardze remains unbearably oppressive; Tibetans continue to be deeply concerned about the survival of their religious and cultural identity. It is imperative for the Chinese authorities to address its counter-productive and disproportionate policies in Tibet and to address the deep underlying causes of this wave of self-immolations.”

[1] RFA report, http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/sichuan-immolation-04152017144618.html

[2] http://www.vot.org/%E0%BD%A2%E0%BE%92%E0%BE%B1%E0%BD%A3%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%82%E0%BD%85%E0%BD%BA%E0%BD%A6%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%94%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%91%E0%BD%96%E0%BD%84%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%95%E0%BE%B1%E0%BD%B4%E0%BD%82%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%9A/

[3] Report in English by the Central Tibetan Administration (http://tibet.net/2017/04/update-on-the-latest-self-immolation-protest-in-tibet/) and Tibet Times in Tibetan (http://tibettimes.net/%E0%BD%A2%E0%BD%84%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%A3%E0%BD%B4%E0%BD%A6%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%98%E0%BD%BA%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%A2%E0%BD%B4%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%96%E0%BD%A6%E0%BE%B2%E0%BD%BA%E0%BD%82%E0%BD%A6%E0%BC%8B%E0%BD%8F%E0%BD%BA/)

[4] ICT report, https://www.https://savetibet.org/security-crackdown-follows-first-tibetan-self-immolation-in-2017/

[5] ICT list: https://www.https://savetibet.org/resources/fact-sheets/self-immolations-by-tibetans/ For further context see ICT report: https://www.https://savetibet.org/storm-in-the-grasslands-self-immolations-in-tibet-and-chinese-policy/

[6] ICT report, https://www.https://savetibet.org/tibetan-self-immolations-escalate-in-number-on-eve-of-chinas-party-congress-tibetans-gather-en-masse-in-rebkong/