Sonam Wangyal Sopa Rinpoche in an undated photo
DHARAMSHALA, January 17: Thousands of Tibetans from around the Golok region of eastern Tibet attended the funeral of Sonam Wangyal Sopa Rinpoche on Sunday morning.
Sopa Rinpoche, a respected spiritual figure in his early forties passed away on the spot after drinking and spraying kerosene all over his body before lighting himself up on January 8.
According to the Beijing based award winning Tibetan writer, Woeser, Tibetans in Amdo Golok and in the neighbouring regions of Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan were in deep mourning at the passing away of Rinpoche.
Writing on her blog, Woeser said thousands of Tibetans participated in the funeral ceremony of Sopa Rinpoche in Darlag (in Chinese, Dari) county of Golok.
Elsewhere in Golok, hundreds of Tibetans took out a daylong peaceful demonstration following Sopa Rinpoche's funeral ceremony.
Citing contacts within the region, an exile Tibetan, Khenpo Ogyen Rigzin told US based radio service VOA
that over a hundred Tibetans carryong photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Gyalwang Karmapa in Amdo Golok Pema district carried protests from around 9:30 am to 5 pm.
“The demonstration was carried out in solidarity with Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives since the 2008 mass uprisings in Tibet,” Kehnpo Rigzin said.
“The demonstrators were raising slogans for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom in Tibet,” Khenpo Rigzin said while adding that he also heard people wailing and crying through a phone conversation he had with a local Tibetan while the demonstration was being carried out.
“The demonstrators were also carrying banners urging Tibetans to rise up in solidarity with all those who have sacrificed their lives for Tibet,” Khenpo Rigzin said.
Chinese security personnel had apparently let the demonstration go on while taking pictures and videos of the demonstrators.
Sopa Rinpoche set himself ablaze in front of the police station of Darlag County in Golog after shouting slogans calling for Tibet's freedom and the long life of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
In leaflets that Sopa Rinpoche distributed just before his fatal self-immolation, he stated his fiery sacrifice was not for his “personal glory but for Tibet and the happiness of Tibetans."
"The Tibetans should not lose their determination. The day of happiness will come for sure. For the Dalai Lama to live long, the Tibetans should not lose track of their path," Sopa Rinpoche said in his last statement.
In the past 11 months, 16 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire demanding the return of the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet.