Tibetan Teenagers Die in Double Self-Immolation
By EDWARD WONG: Two Tibetan teenagers killed themselves by self-immolation on Tuesday to protest Chinese rule in Tibet, according to reports on Wednesday by a Tibet advocacy group and Radio Free Asia. The two were among the youngest Tibetans to kill themselves in protest, and the act was a rare instance in which Tibetans committed self-immolation together.
The teenagers were identified as Rinchen, 17, who went by only one name, and Sonam Dargye, 18. They had been elementary school classmates in Sichuan Province, in western China, according to Radio Free Asia, which is financed by the United States government. They killed themselves in Ngaba Prefecture, or Aba in Chinese, which has a large Tibetan population and has been at the epicenter of the self-immolation protests.
At least 104 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009 in protests against China. Since a widespread Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 2008, tensions between Tibetans and Chinese officials have been high across the Tibetan plateau, and officials have deployed large numbers of security forces, mostly ethnic Han, who rule China, in the crucial areas of the region.
Twenty of the self-immolators have been 18 or younger, according to statistics compiled by the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group based in Washington.
Free Tibet, an advocacy group based in London, said the two teenagers who killed themselves on Tuesday had died at the scene of their self-immolation at about 9:30 p.m., and that their families had retrieved the bodies.
On Sunday, a Tibetan man, Namlha Tsering, 49, set himself on fire in the main street of Labrang, an
important monastery town in Gansu Province. A photograph released by Tibet advocacy groups shows a man aflame and sitting in the street. Another photo shows security troops in riot gear marching in a street in Labrang, known as Xiahe in Chinese. The reports said the man was from a nomadic area.
The self-immolations began with monks, mostly from Kirti Monastery, in Ngaba. Since then, the profile of Tibetans who have self-immolated has widened. They have included women, middle-aged parents and nomads. Tibetans have self-immolated together a handful of other times, including in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and in Ngaba.
The Chinese government has blamed outside forces for the self-immolations, particularly the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans, who is regarded by China as a subversive. The Dalai Lama’s supporters have denied such accusations.
“Beijing should stop playing blame game,” Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India, said in an e-mail last week. “Instead, it should thoroughly overhaul its failed hard-line policies, which are the main cause of the self-immolations.”