The Chinese authorities have made a rare admission that a Tibetan monk committed suicide due to ‘stress’. Forty three year old Sheldrup (named in the Chinese official statement today as Shadri), had been tortured in custody after protests at his monastery in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) county in Qinghai province in April 2008, although this background was not acknowledged in the report issued today by Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.

The Xinhua report said that Sheldrup was found dead on March 9, 2009 in his monastery after hanging himself with two khatags (white blessing scarves). Details of the means of death could not be confirmed. According to the report, local police said that Sheldrup was suffering from stress due to illness and also due to deaths in his family.

According to information received from Tibetans who knew Sheldrup, he was detained following peaceful protests at his monastery on April 17, 2008, when he and several other monks demanded the release of monks detained during the initial wave of protests a month previously. He was taken into custody and beaten severely and later released. According to the same sources, the local authorities then published his name and details – among others – on ‘wanted’ posters, indicating he would be detained again. Sheldrup left his monastery to go into hiding, during which time his health deteriorated, and he committed suicide in March 2009, a few weeks after returning to his monastery in February. Sheldrup left Tibet in the mid-1990s to study at Ganden monastery in southern India, and returned to Tibet around 10 years later in 2006.

According to ICT’s monitoring and research, several Tibetans – monks, nuns and laypeople – have resorted to suicide in acts of despair and of protest. ICT has received reliable information on people who committed suicide because of the distress of being compelled to denounce the Dalai Lama, as well as others who committed suicide as an apparent direct protest against the requirement; other sources have reported that during the height of the protests in 2008, Tibetans committed suicide upon witnessing police brutality against Tibetan protestors; whereas others committed suicide to escape police brutality being inflicted upon them. (ICT report, Tibet at a Turning Point: The Spring Uprising and China’s New Crackdown – August 2008)