81-year-old Tibetan dies after self-immolation protest in restive Ngaba county

DHARAMSALA, 3 April: An octogenarian Tibetan man has set himself on fire in restive Ngaba County in eastern Tibet’s Amdo Province in the latest self-immolation protest against China’s repressive policies in occupied Tibet.

“Taphun, an 81-year-old Tibetan, has self-immolated in front of a police station near Kirti Monastery in the early hours of the morning on 27 March, protesting against China’s repressive rule in Tibet,” said Lobsang Yeshi and Kanyag Tsering, spokespersons of Kirti Monastery in Dharamsala.

The Chinese officials quickly extinguished the fire and whisked him away, but the 81-year-old Tibetan later succumbed to injuries he sustained during the fiery protest, the spokespersons added.

The elderly Tibetan man hails from the third division of Meruma Township in the Ngaba region, and sources described him as a vocal critic of China’s repressive and harsh policies in Tibet. During his 80th birthday, Taphun reportedly advised Tibetan youths not to lose heart and hope and assured them of light at the end of the tunnel under the blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The latest self-immolation protest comes just a little over a month after a famous Tibetan singer died of self-immolation.

Tsewang Norbu, a young and popular Tibetan singer, self-immolated on 25 February this year, protesting the Chinese government’s repression at the Potala Palace Square in Lhasa.

Norbu was the first Tibetan to take to the self-immolation protest in 2022 and the first since 2019 to protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. However, the Chinese authorities concealed his protest and death due to the injuries he sustained in the fiery protest for nearly a month, in a clear indication of the tight security measures in place across Tibet under Chinese occupation.

The US-based watchdog group Freedom House declared Tibet as the least free country in the world for the second year in a row in 2022.

Though the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) headquartered in Dharamsala has repeatedly urged Tibetans not to resort to drastic measures such as self-immolation, the saga of fiery protests by Tibetans continues.

Since February 2009, at least 159 Tibetans have self-immolated in Chinese-occupied Tibet, calling for freedom, an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, while 10 self-immolations by Tibetans have occurred in exile since 1998.

This is the second confirmed self-immolation protest inside Tibet in 2022, protesting against Chinese rule in Tibet.

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