News and Views on Tibet

81-year-old self-immolates to protest against Chinese government in Ngaba

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Tashi Phuntsok in an undated photo (Photo/TCHRD)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, April 4: A 81-year-old Tibetan man, Tashi Phuntsok, also called Taphun has set himself on fire around 5 am local time on March 27, in front the Public Security Bureau office at Kirti monastery in Ngaba County in the traditional Amdo province, reportedly to protest against the repressive policies of the Chinese government. According to a reliable source in exile, Phayul has learnt that as soon as the act was committed, police authorities were quick to take Taphun out of sight, to an undisclosed location, where he died later.

“This month, the authorities imposed extraordinary restrictions causing immense resentment among local Tibetans, and [the self-immolation] made this oppressive situation evident,” the source said, adding that the month of March has always been politically sensitive due to its historical significance, where the state usually imposes strict restriction on movement and surveillance.

The information received from the source revealed that the self-immolator has great concerns over the future of Tibet, as Taphun had told a gathering on his 80th birthday, “With the blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the sun of happiness is sure to shine over Tibet. To all young Tibetans, do not lose heart!” He lived in the nomadic camp no. 3 of Meruma town in Ngaba County in the so-called Sichuan province.

The Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy called on the Chinese authorities to “allow Taphun’s family members to get immediate custody of his remains so that they can conduct proper funeral rites” and further demanded that “[his] family and friends must not be subjected to arbitrary detention and interrogation to obtain false confessions in an attempt to distort the real reasons behind the self-immolation.”

In the few months elapsed of the year 2022, three self-immolation incidents have already been reported from inside Tibet; the two identified individuals include 25-year-old singer Tsewang Norbu from Nagchu, and 81-year old Tashi Phuntsok from Ngaba. The third self-immolation of an unidentified male has also been reported from Kyegudo, Kham on March 30, but no information about his health condition or background has come to light as of now.

According to the official website of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Taphun is the 157th self-immolator who sacrificed his life through this radical form of protest against the Chinese Communist Party regime since 2009.

2 Responses

  1. I salute TaPhun and Tsewang Norbu, the latest Gangchen Pawo Lue Jinpa! May their aspirations be fulfilled!

  2. It is with extreme sadness to hear the self-immolation of another fellow Tibetan in occupied Tibet. It goes to show the harrowing treatment of Tibetans by the evil CCP. This is happening because of the CCP’s policy of ethnic cleansing which profoundly worries the Tibetans both in occupied Tibet and in exile. Owing to the lack of knowledge in Buddhism, some people among the exiles seem to be confused.
    Giving one’s own body for the sake of others is a noble act of the highest practice of generosity. The holy Lord Buddha gave his life to a tigress in one of His previous lives. Before He became the Sakyamuni Buddha, He is said to have taken five hundred pure lives (དག་པའི་སྐྱེ་བ་ལྔ་བརྒྱ་) and five hundred impure/ contaminated མ་དག་པའི་སྐྱེ་བ་ལྔ་བརྒྱ་ lives. During one of those life time, He was born as a prince to a king. When the family went for a picnic in the woods, He and His younger brother went ahead into the forest as the family followed them. As they walked into the thick forest, He saw an emaciated tigress with few cubs who were starving. He told his brother to go ahead and assured him, He will follow soon. He then went to the tigress’s den and lay in front of her hoping, she would eat him. However, she was too weak to eat him. So, he scratched his hands with sticks until they bled and the tigress licked his blood and then finally ate him. This is how the holy Buddha gave his life to save the tigress and her starving cubs. The place where it took place is said to be at a place in Nepal known today as “NAMO BUDDHA”.

    Those Tibetans, who are self-immolating are following in the footsteps of the holy Buddha to give their life to save the holy Buddha Dharma from extinction and free the suffering Tibetans from Chinese communist colonial oppression.
    There have been discussions about self-immolation being violent or not. In Buddhism, the most important thing is motivation (ཀུན་སློང) If the motivation is driven by the feeling of wanting to save the people (sentient beings), then it is not violent because the very act is motivated by empathy towards the others. The fact that all self-immolators have never hurt a single Chinese occupier is testimony to their benign and compassionate nature of the protest.
    If they had ulterior motives such as anger, they could hurt many people like those Islamic jihadists who target large gatherings and big concentration of people to blow themselves up to cause maximum bloodshed. The Tibetan Buddhist warriors die to SAVE OTHERS without hurting anybody. SO, THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TIBETAN BUDDHIST PROTEST OF SELF-IMMOLATION and Islamic jihadi suicides.
    This must be understood clearly especially because the evil CCP might attempt to portray them as being same to discredit Tibetan Buddhist non-violent protests.
    It’s not unique to Tibet either since a famous Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk by the name of Thic Quang Duc self-immolated on 11th June 1963 in protest against the persecution of Vietnamese Buddhists by the South Vietnamese Government led by Ngo Dinh Diem who was a staunch Roman Catholic. It created such a world wide sensation that Malcom Brown, the photographer of the self-immolation was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for recording the death of the monk!
    Self-immolation has become the only viable protest in occupied Tibet because there is NO OTHER WAY to express Tibetan grievances. Tibetans are living like animals, herded together in their cages! No one is allowed to speak or even think of anything other than the CCP propaganda. They are under severe surveillance and every move is watched, every phone is tapped and Tibetan live has become utterly intolerable. Seeing no other option, Tibetans en masse have resorted to self-immolation. But the CCP has criminalised this practice and anyone who commits self-immolation entails the whole family, including children are rounded up and subjected to violent interrogation depriving them of sleep and food for days! Even helping the burning person is a crime which would result in long prison sentences. Taking photo or sending them abroad are regarded as state secrets by the CCP and incurs long sentences and deprivation of all “rights” of the person or persons. This is the terrible tragedy of the Tibetan people under brutal Chinese communist oppression and colonial subjugation. Will the world hear the desperate calls of the hapless Tibetans in occupied Tibet? Will the international community stand up to the clear case of genocide in Tibet?
    Tibetans must act to save our nation, people and identity. Doing nothing and hoping against hope is not an option!

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