On March 3rd this year, 19-year old Tsering Kyi finished school, purchased a can of petrol and self-immolated. Within moments she was engulfed in flames and yet for several seconds she stood still, her fist raised high in defiance before collapsing to the ground.
The teenager’s tragic death was reported earlier this month, and was not the first of its kind and unfortunately will not be the last as Tibetans continue to suffer under the oppressive rule of the Chinese government. A statement from the India-based Tibetan parliament in exile revealed how Chinese security arrived at the scene of the protest and locked down all movement and witnesses. It said:
“All mobile phones were confiscated in an attempt to stop the news of the protest from spreading. People at the scene of the protest were issued strict orders against speaking about the self-immolation”.
Despite the Chinese government’s attempt to silence and intimidate , Tsering’s act of protest did not go unheard and like her fellow Tibetans who have passed away in protest, her death was reported and felt around the world. Allegations of Tsering’s mental health were made in Chinese media outlets; the official Xinhua news agency reported her mentally unstable condition was caused by a blow to her head, which led to her grades beginning to suffer, and hence why she set herself aflame.
In spite of such reports, several Tibetan residents, friends and relatives of Tsering Kyi have resolutely denied these accusations. According to interviews conducted by British newspaper The Guardian, Tsering hailed from a nomad family and she was a bright and hard working student who was on the school’s honour roll. Her cousin remembers a girl who even when out in the pastures with her parents flock, would always have a book in her hand.
In 2010 she first joined fellow class mates at Maqu County Tibetan Middle School, in Ganus Provinence, to protest the new integration of new Chinese text books in Tibetan schools, and the decision to limit Tibetan to just a single class. The aftermath of these protest saw Chinese authorities crackdown even hasher on the regime with several teachers arrested and detained.
It is reported that just days before the incident, Tsering had said “in Ngaba and other areas of Tibet, Tibetans are burning themselves. We should do something – life is meaningless if we don’t do something for Tibet.”
Following her death, Tsering’s body was kept in custody at a local police station. Any attempt by her family to claim her body back for burial has been met with pre-agreement that must be signed that stipulates her self-immolation was not ‘political in nature’.
On the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao visit to India this week, Tsering’s death is a appalling reality of how citizens live under his rule. Just today, a Tibetan exile identified as Jamphel Yeshi, was taken to hospital after setting himself alight in New Delhi; he was later taken to hospital and his status is currently unknown.
President Hu must address the numerous ongoing issues in Tibet; Tsering’s death is yet another case of how the current Chinese rule in Tibet is a failure and action must be taken to avoid any more tragedies.