Chinese paramilitary police and work teams have moved in force in recent weeks into Tibetan-populated counties of Sichuan in reaction to self-immolation protests staged in March and April in Kardze town, frequently a site of Tibetan challenges to rule by Beijing, a local source says.
The two protests were staged by residents of Sichuan’s Nyagrong (in Chinese, Xinlong) county who had traveled to the Kardze (Ganzi) county seat to carry out the burnings, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Following these incidents, Chinese paramilitary forces and other workers were deployed to the home towns and villages of the protesters and to Kardze town itself,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The workers called community members to a meeting and conducted patriotic reeducation workshops for them,” the source said, adding, “The movements of Tibetans were also restricted, adding to tensions in the area.”
Authorities have also increased their scrutiny of online communications and the use of social media by Tibetan residents, the source said.
“Chinese agents are taking part in Tibetan WeChat groups to identify people talking about Tibet to outside contacts,” he said. “Many of those sharing information outside the area have been contacted and warned, while chat group leaders have been threatened.”
Government workers and security forces have meanwhile visited monasteries in Nyagrong and called the monks together for meetings, the source said.
“The monks have been forced to sign statements promising never to get involved in protests against China,” he said.
‘Engulfed in flames’
On April 15, Nyagrong resident Wangchuk Tseten, a 39-year-old father of four, set himself ablaze in Kardze town after drinking kerosene and pouring it over his body, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
As he burned, he called out for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said, adding, “His body was completely engulfed in flames, so it seems there is little chance that he survived.”
Tseten’s protest brought to 148 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009. Of these, 125 are known to have died.
The previous protest was on March 18, when a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer named Pema Gyaltsen, also from Nyagrong, set himself on fire in Kardze. His fate remains unclear.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.