DHARAMSHALA, March 12: A teenaged Tibetan monk in eastern Tibet burned himself to death in an apparent protest against China’s rule on March 10, the day marking the 53rd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprisings.
Gepey, an 18-year-old monk from the Kirti Monastery in the beleaguered Ngaba region set himself on fire on Saturday March 10 at around 5pm (local time) according to exile sources.
The exile base of Kirti monastery in Dharamshala in a late night release today said that Gepey self-immolated near a military camp in Ngaba town that was built in the 1950s for China’s “liberation army” when they first invaded Tibet.
“Due to the proximity to the military camp, Chinese soldiers quickly arrived and carried Gepey’s charred body inside the camp and refused to hand it over to the deceased’s family,” the release said.
A day later, on March 11, after much persistence, Chinese authorities decided to allow only five people from Gepey’s family to take part in the funeral, according to the release.
The family was ordered to have the funeral immediately and his body was cremated at 10pm (local time) on March 11, without proper traditional funeral rites. The cemetery was surrounded by security officers keeping a close watch on the proceedings.
In a separate release confirming the events of March 10, London based rights group, Free Tibet said the Chinese authorities refused to allow the traditional funeral rites to take place, fearing that it would give Tibetans a “chance to gather and provide an opportunity for further protest against China’s repression.”
Gepey is the third Tibetan in a row to self-immolate near Chinese government buildings, which are symbolic of China’s continued occupation of Tibet.
Dorjee, self-immolated on March 5 walking towards a local Chinese government building, while on March 4, Rinchen torched her body in front of a police station especially set up outside the gate of Kirti monastery in Ngaba.
Gepey, a semi-orphan, is survived by his mother and two brothers, both of whom are monks.
According to Kirti monastery, his mother was summoned by Chinese security personnel for daylong interrogation sessions on March 11 and 12.
Due to the tight security clampdown in Ngaba, which alone has witnessed more than 15 self-immolations, Tibetans in the region came to know of Gepey’s death only on March 12.
“Local Tibetan shops and restaurants remained closed today in a strong show of solidarity with Gepey’s courageous act,” the release said.
More military, paramilitary and police personnel have been deployed in Ngaba town since Saturday.
27 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire since 2009 demanding the return of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet.