Losang Lozin

A photo of Losang Lozin, the 31st Tibetan to self-immolate inside Tibet in 2012.

UPDATE JULY 18, 2012: When security personnel despatched from Barkham arrived at the monastery after the self-immolation, local people attempted to block them from entering the monastery. According to Lobsang Yeshi, a Kirti monk in exile in Dharamsala, India, monastery management personnel successfully prevented a tense situation from escalating when they “promised the Chinese police that they would cooperate to keep the situation under control and asked the police to go back and the locals to return home.” (RFA, Clash Averted After Self-Immolation).

Losang Lozin’s remains were then given a water-burial in the river near Tsodum monastery on the evening of July 17. Water-burials in Tibet operate on the same principle as sky burials, returning the body to the elements. The bodies of a number of other Tibetans who have self-immolated in Ngaba have been cremated, sometimes involving the gathering of large numbers of monks and laypeople – for instance in the case of the cremation of Kirti monk Phuntsog, who set fire to himself on March 11, 2011. Given the tense situation and under pressure from the authorities, monks may have calculated that in this case it was more appropriate to maintain Tibetan traditional ritual in the form of a water burial rather than engaging in the preparations entailed by a cremation.

Tibetans also honored the death in other ways. The Kirti monks in exile said that on the day following the water burial, July 18: “The people of Tsodun gathered at the monastery for worship and prayer, and all shops and restaurants in the township remained closed in a show of mourning.”

The Kirti monks, who are based in Dharamsala, India, also reported that 21-year old Kirti monk Losang was detained on June 26. His relatives have been unable to ascertain his whereabouts. Thirty-six year old Kirti monk Lodro, who was arrested on October 20, 2011, was sentenced in Barkham at the beginning of July to three years imprisonment. His relatives were not informed of the court hearing at the time, and further details are not known. He had not been seen after his detention until he appeared in court. Lodro became a Kirti monk in his early twenties, and is skilled in the painting and manufacture of sacred images.

ORIGINAL REPORT: The self-immolation and death today of an 18-year old Tibetan monk from Ngaba is being marked by Tibetans at his monastery, Gedhen Tashi Choeling, an affiliate of Kirti monastery. Kirti monastery was the early epicenter of the Tibetan self-immolations: of the 44 reported self-immolations in Tibet starting in February 27, 2009, seven monks and nine former monks have been from Kirti monastery.

In a Washington Post July 15 opinion piece, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, leader of the Tibetan exile government, described the Tibetan self-immolations as “a clear indictment of the Chinese government’s failed policies in Tibet: policies founded on political oppression, social marginalization, cultural assimilation and environment destruction,” and urged the Chinese “to relax restrictions in Tibet immediately.”

Losang Lozin (pictured) set fire to himself in front of the monastery’s main assembly hall today and then attempted to start walking towards the township government office, according to monks from Kirti monastery in Dharamsala, India. An email translated from Tibetan provides the following account:

“After going only a short way, the flames became fiercer, and Losang Lozin fell to the ground. He died on that spot. While on fire, he uttered many things, but it is not yet clear what these were. After this happened, the monks at his monastery took away his body and are now performing after-death rituals in his honor. They are planning to cremate his remains this evening.”

The Kirti monks in exile also report that security personnel and troops from Barkham country are in the vicinity of the monastery and there are fears that the situation may escalate as local Tibetans gather there for the cremation.

Losang Lozin had joined Gedhen Tashi Choeling monastery at a young age and was in the senior class. According to two monks from Kirti monastery in exile, Lobsang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering, he was “a model student in both his studies and his personal conduct.” He was the third monk from Gedhen Tashi Choeling to self-immolate. On March 30, 2012, Chimey Palden, age 21, and Tenpa Darjey, age 22, died after setting fire to themselves.

Losang Lozin was from Kholachang village in Tsodun township, Barkham (Chinese: Ma’erkang) county in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo). Gedhen Tashi Choeling monastery is in the north of Barkham county, about 85 km from the county seat (and headquarters of the Ngaba prefectural government). Also known as Gyalrong Tsodun Kirti, it is the largest monastery of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism in the Gyalrong region (southern Ngaba prefecture).