By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, APR. 19: The situation in Kham Kardze in eastern Tibet following the self immolation of a Tibetan man has turned for the worse with Chinese authorities arresting five Tibetans for taking video of the self immolation and possibly killing another in detention.
On April 15, earlier last week, a Tibetan man, later identified to be 39 year old Wangchuk Tsetan, self immolated in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. The father of four hailed from the neighboring Nyarong County in Kardze Prefecture. Confirmed reports suggest Wangchuk had died, succumbing to the burns. A video clip of Chinese police reaching the spot and extinguishing the flames were seen in a widely circulated video on social media sites.
According to Voice of Tibet,
three Tibetans who hail from Nyarong County were arrested for possessing the mobile phone of the deceased self immolator. The three identified as Kunchok Gyaltsen, Nyima and Tsering Gyatso were arrested and severely beaten according to a source cited by VOT. Although two of them have been released by the authorities, one is still being held and subjected to torture, the same source said. The report also suggested that the three Tibetans had communicated just moments before the self immolation with Wangchuk; who told the three that he was in Kardze and that they should recover his mobile phone from an elderly lady.
Another source said a Tibetan man named Kunchok Tsering, 39, may have died in detention after he had severely been beaten for taking a video clip of the self immolation. It is although unclear if the video in question is the same as the one circulated on the Internet.
Also, there are reports that two other Tibetans were arrested from Kardze. However, due to the choke- down on all communication lines and clamp down in the region, no further information is currently available.
In August, 2016, Chinese authorities released a new manual in Ngaba, considered to be the epicenter of the self immolation protests, including stringent orders prohibiting self-immolations, solo protest and dissemination of news outside Tibet. It gives strict directive to the monks to follow the said rules or be deemed a ‘separatist’ and penalized.
The same manual also indicated that those who are indirectly involved with the self immolation protest or a solo protest will also be punished as co-conspirators. The measures, many in exile say, are aimed to curb the forms of protests by Tibetans. With Wangchuk Tsetan’s self immolation, the toll has reached a staggering 148 since 2009.