News and Views on Tibet

Ngawang Norphel passes away in a Chinese hospital

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By Tendar Tsering

DAHRAMSHALA, July 30: More than a month after his self-immolation protest, Ngawang Norphel, a young Tibetan passed away in a Chinese hospital in the Tsongon region of eastern Tibet today.

According to his uncle, Tenzin Phegyel, a resident of Dharamshala, Ngawang Norphel’s father was in the hospital at the time of his death.

“Ngawang Norphel died today at around 3:30 pm in a Chinese hospital in Tsongon, Amdo,” Phegyel told Phayul. “His cremation will be carried out soon.”

Ngawang Norphel, 21 and Tenzin Khedup, 24, had set themselves on fire in Zatoe town of Keygudo, Kham on June 20, protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet. Both of them were carrying Tibetan national flags in their hands at the time of their self-immolation protest.

Tenzin Khedup sucummbed to his injuries shortly after his protest while Ngawang Norphel was taken to a hospital in a critical condition.

Following China’s heavy clampdown on the flow of information from Tibet, earlier reports had indicated that Ngawang Norphel was a resident of Ngaba. However, according to his uncle, the entire family of the deceased hails from Nyalam region in Shigatse, western Tibet.

“Ngawang Norphel’s father, Lhakpa Dhondup came to know about his son’s self-immolation protest almost a month later, only when he actually saw his son in the hospital,” Phegyel said. “Someone had called from Amdo to tell him that his son was sick and hospitalised. Nothing more.”

Ngawang Norphel had left his home in 2008 and since, settled with a job in Keygudo.

According to Phegyel, the deceased had suffered sever burn injuries all over his body and his health was rapidly deteriorating over the past few days,

“Whenever he tried to utter a few words, Chinese officials at once came to interrogate him and ask questions,” Phegyle said. “Then he gradually stopped talking.”

In a video footage immediately shot after their self-immolation protest, Ngawang Norphel, severely burned, could be seen shouting, “What has happened to my Land of Snow?” and also enquiring for his “sworn brother” Tenzin Khedup.

Although under immense visible pain, Ngawang Norphel says that their sacrifice is for the sake of Tibet.

“We two “sworn brothers”, we won’t fail next time. [This is] for the sake of Tibet. We are in the land of snow. If we don’t have our freedom, cultural traditions and language, it would be extremely embarrassing for us,” Ngawang Norphel says.

In a note left behind by the two young Tibetans before taking their drastic action, they urged all Tibetans to be united in the fight for Tibet’s freedom and the return of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama from exile.

“People like us are unable to contribute anything toward Tibetan religion and culture, or contribute economically to help Tibetans,” Ngawang Norphel and Tenzin Khedup wrote. They said their actions “show love to the Tibetan people and loyalty to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

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