A Tibetan mother of two set fire to herself today outside a Chinese government building in Kanlho and near a monastery where teachings were being held for a Buddhist festival. Sangye Tso, 36, is believed to have died.

Her self-immolation follows a Tibetan father of four setting fire to himself in Tawu a week ago as the holy Buddhist month of Saga Dawa began, apparently in response to tightened security in the buildup to the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.[1]


View of Dorkok township including the monastery, taken a few years ago

Sangye Tso set fire to herself this morning (May 27) in a township in Chone (Chinese: Zhuoni) county, Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture) in Gansu Province, according to Tibetan sources. The location she chose to self-immolate was significant – outside a government building near the monastery of Tashi Choekhorling in Dorkok township. A Tibetan exile source in contact with Tibetans in the area said: “The specific location was the Party and government offices, including the local police station, symbolic to locals of policies of injustice against Tibetans, as well as the main offices to enforce the crackdown against police protest in 2008.”

The self-immolation followed teachings this week by the head lama of the monastery in the township, coinciding with the important and holy Buddhist month of Saga Dawa, during which the anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death occurs.

Sangye Tso is believed to have died after the self-immolation and was taken away by police. Armed police immediately raided homes of her family and detained some of her relatives, according to the same sources.

The government offices where Sangye Tso self-immolated have been expanded since protests swept across Tibet in 2008, with new buildings constructed and visits from Party cadres and government officials from different areas to carry out ‘patriotic education’ sessions. Tenzin Gyatso, the Tibetan father of four who self-immolated on May 20 (2015), also set fire to himself outside a government building where ‘patriotic education’ was carried out in Tawu, Sichuan.[2]

Tashi Choekhorling

This image of the township where Sangye Tso self-immolated shows the newly-constructed and expanded government buildings (the white blocks to the left of the image).

A message sent on Chinese social media indicated that family and friends had been concerned about Sangye Tso after she left a message prior to her self-immolation, speaking about the current situation in Tibet; they had apparently not been able to contact her directly beforehand.
Sangye Tso was born in a village in Chone county, and was married to Tamding Wangyal; the couple have a son and a daughter.

The Chinese authorities have responded to Tibetan self-immolations with an intensified wave of repression that has led to the convictions, detention without trial, or disappearance of Tibetans by using a quasi-legal framework to criminalize them.[3]


[1] ICT report, May 21, 2015, https://savetibet.org/tibetan-father-of-four-self-immolates-after-oppressive-measures-to-prevent-dalai-lama-birthday-celebrations/

[2] ICT report, https://savetibet.org/tibetan-father-of-four-self-immolates-after-oppressive-measures-to-prevent-dalai-lama-birthday-celebrations/

[3] ICT report, ‘Acts of significant evil: The Criminalisation of Tibetan self-immolations’, https://savetibet.org/acts-of-significant-evil/

Chone teaching

Devotees gathered at the monastery in Chone, Kanlho for the teaching.

Chone Saga Dawa

The head lama of the Tashi Choekhorling (Chuwe-Shi) monastery was giving a major teaching at the monastery prior to the self-immolation for the holy period of Saga Dawa. Devotees from across the area were attending.