Tibetan in Dharamshala, north India, taking part in a candle light vigil for Tibetan self-immolator Kunchok Sonam on July 21, 2013. (Phayul photo)
DHARAMSHALA, July 22: Around a hundred Tibetans and supporters gathered on Sunday evening at McLeod Ganj square in the exile Tibetan headquarters of Dharamshala for a candle light vigil in solidarity with Kunchok Sonam, the latest Tibetan self-immolator.
Kunchok Sonam, an 18-year-old monk of the Thangkor Sogtsang Monastery in Zoege region of eastern Tibet, set himself on fire at around 8:40 am (local time) on Saturday protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet. He passed away at the site of his protest.
Chinese security personnel arrived at the site of the protest and tried to bundle away Kunchok Sonam’s body. However, local Tibetans present there succeeded in rescuing the deceased’s body from falling into Chinese hands.
According to reports, more than 1500 Tibetans later gathered at the monastery to pay their last respects to Kunchok Sonam and also took part in a special prayer ceremony.
The exile Tibetan administration has said that the situation in the region “remains tense” with local Chinese authorities deploying a large number of security forces at the monastery. Telephone and internet lines in the region have also been cut.
Tibetan self-immolator Kunchok Sonam, 18, in an undated photo.
Kunchok Sonam is the son of Sonam Palden and Lentrug.
Speaking at the vigil jointly organised by the regional chapters of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association and Students for a Free Tibet, India, Tibet activist Tenzin Tsundue pointed out that the Xi Jinping government has still not removed the oppressive security forces that the Hu Jintao regime deployed to turn Tibet into a “police state.”
“Tibetan monks, nuns and nomads are intimated by these guns totting brutes who bully their way around in Tibetans towns and cities,” he said.
Dorjee Tseten, National Director, Students for a Free Tibet, India noted that the Chinese government, instead of investigating the causes of the self-immolations and finding out ways to resolve the grievances of the Tibetans, has “routinely blamed exile Tibetans just as they blame the ‘the West’ for protests in China.”
Since 2009, as many as 120 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire calling for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.