By Phuntsok Yangchen
Top Tibetan leaders attending a special prayer service for Tibetan self-immolator Kunchok Sonam at the Tsug-la Khang in Dharamshala on July 24, 2013. (Phayul photo/Phuntsok Yangchen)
DHARAMSHALA, July 24: A mass prayer service was held today in the exile Tibetan headquarters of Dharamshala in honour of Kunchok Sonam, a young Tibetan monk, who set himself ablaze in protest against China’s continued occupation of Tibet on July 20 in Zoege region of eastern Tibet.
The prayer service was presided over by Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche, the exiled abbot of the Kirti Monasteries in Tibet and India.
Hundreds of Tibetans and supporters including the Tibetan Chief Justice Commissioners, Speaker Penpa Tsering, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Kalons, Parliamentarians, and CTA staff.Kunchok Sonam
, 18, a monk at the Thangkor Sogtsang Monastery in Zoege, 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.
More than 1500 Tibetans later gathered at the monastery to pay their last respects to Kunchok Sonam and also took part in a prayer ceremony.
Regarded as ‘exceptional’ in his studies, Kunchok Sonam had reportedly told friends that “living under Chinese rule in Tibet had brought too much suffering.”
Kunchok Sonam is the son of Sonam Palden and Lentrug.
Since 2009, as many as 120 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile. 103 of the self-immolators have passed away while the condition of more than ten remains unknown.
Addressing the prayer service, Sikyong Sangay spoke about the recent Chinese police firing on unarmed Tibetans in Tawu
on the occasion of the 78th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in which several Tibetans were critically injured.
He also took note of reports about possible terror threats
in the Tibetans’ exile home state of Himachal Pradesh and appealed to Tibetans living all over India to maintain a friendly and cordial relationship with local Indians.
According to earlier Indian media reports, India’s central counter terrorism unit, the National Investigation Agency, had alerted Himachal police about possible terrorist strikes on Buddhist population and monasteries across the state.