News of a Tibetan self-immolation protest in 2015 has surfaced after going unreported for five years, the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan exile government the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said this week, citing unnamed sources in Tibet.
According to CTA, a young man named Shurmo, 26, set himself ablaze at around 1:00 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2015 outside a bus station in Shagchukha village in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Nagchu (Chinese, Naqu) county, dying later that day in a hospital where he had been taken by police.
Police then detained three of Shurmo’s relatives for questioning, CTA said, adding that no word has been received regarding their possible arrest or sentencing for involvement in Shurmo’s protest, of if they were eventually released.
The burning brings to 157 the number of Tibetans confirmed to have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, and is the first to be reported since a 24-year-old Tibetan named Yonten died in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) county’s Meruma township on Nov. 26, 2019.
Chinese authorities exercise strict controls over phone and online communications in Tibetan areas, sources say, and news of Tibetan protests and arrests is often delayed, sometimes for years, from reaching outside contacts.
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a separatist intent on splitting Tibet, a formerly independent Himalayan country which was invaded and incorporated into China by force in 1950, from Beijing’s control.
The Dalai Lama himself says only that he seeks a greater autonomy for Tibet as a part of China, though, with guaranteed protections for Tibet’s language, culture, and religion.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.