Tibetan man dies in self-immolation protest in China’s Sichuan province, group says

Tsekho Tugchak, reportedly in his 40s, set fire to himself in Ngaba county on Wednesday, International Campaign for Tibet says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:45pm

A man set himself on fire and died in southwestern China’s Sichuan province in the first self-immolation protest among Tibetans this year, monitoring groups reported on Thursday.

Tsekho Tugchak, reportedly in his 40s, died in Ngaba county on Wednesday amid intensified security in the restive region ahead of the anniversary of the 2008 riots in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and the 1959 independence uprising, the International Campaign for Tibet said.

ICT said his death was the 153rd self-immolation by a Tibetan since the protests began in 2009. The Free Tibet Campaign and US-backed Radio Free Asia also reported the death, saying it took place in Ngaba’s Meruma township.

In Beijing, Tibet’s Communist Party chief – the region’s most powerful official – dismissed the reports.

“I don’t think they’re telling the truth,” Wu Yingjie told reporters at a meeting on the sidelines of the annual session of China’s ceremonial parliament.

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The self-immolations by Tibetans monks, nuns and laypeople aim to highlight harsh Beijing rule and the oppression of Tibet’s Buddhist culture, as well as appeal for the return of exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

The region is closed to foreign media, making it virtually impossible to confirm reported self-immolations, which are believed to have peaked in 2012 with 83 that year.

Staff members reached at police headquarters, government offices and the local propaganda department in Ngaba, also known by its Chinese name, Aba, said they had no knowledge of the case. All declined to give their names as is usual among Chinese bureaucrats.

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China claims Tibet’s traditional territory, including Ngaba, has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist.

Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time and have protested what they regard as Beijing’s heavy-handed rule imposed after it took control of Tibet in 1950, in what it calls a “peaceful liberation” of the remote, Himalayan region.

An uprising against Beijing’s rule in Tibet erupted in 1958 and troops crushed it the following year. The Dalai Lama fled from the crackdown and was granted asylum in India.

He has lived mostly in Dharamsala, where his supporters run a small government in exile and advocate for autonomy for Tibet by peaceful means.

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Meanwhile, Indian officials said on Wednesday that exiled Tibetans had been banned from holding a rally with the Dalai Lama in New Delhi this month to mark the 60th anniversary of the failed uprising against Beijing’s rule.

“We don’t want Tibetans to hold big anti-China protests in New Delhi because it creates a bit of diplomatic tension between India and China,” a senior foreign ministry official said.

“It’s a very sensitive time for India and China ties and we want to ease tensions.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

eration Army’s battled its way into the Himalayan region in 1950.