Self-Immolation and Unrest in Ngaba, Tibet

On March 16, a 21-year old monk doused himself in petrol and set himself afire in an act of protest. Phuntsog, the monk, was reportedly shouting “some slogans about freedom when he did it,” and eyewitnesses revealed that police “extinguished the flames and were seen beating Phuntsog” (Reuters/ICT).

Three years prior, in 2008, there was a protest at the very same monastery, where at20 year-old Phuntsok Jarutsang least ten Tibetans were shot dead.  Sadly, Phuntsog was not the first monk from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Sichuan Province) to perform self-immolation–the first monk to do so was in 2009.  Tabe was protesting because the monks were not allowed to observe Monlam, a major Tibetan prayer festival, and “police open fired on (him) as he was surrounded by flames” (ICT).  He survived the immolation, but was detained and his whereabouts remain unknown to this day, over two years after the incident.

Unlike Tabe, Phuntsog did not survive. He died just past 3:00 am the next morning.

A protest ensued, where monks and lay people peacefully marched a thousand strong.  This was quickly quelled by Chinese forces, Kirti Monastery was surrounded and telephone lines were cut.  Tibetan monks in India received urgent telephone calls from Ngaba, reporting that Chinese troops attempted to storm the monastery on the morning of the thirteenth, and were “planning to forcibly remove all monks between the ages of 18 and 40” (SFT).  There is fear that the standoff will result in starvation for the monks of Kirti, since eight hundred troops have blockaded the monastery, sealed the surrounding roads, and prohibited any access, according to Radio Free Asia.

This is not some Oscar-nominated film, this is the everyday reality for many Tibetans—no free speech, no freedom of religion, or freedom of movement.  The current situation in Ngaba is escalating rapidly, with the Chinese military intensifying their efforts.  Use your voice and your right to free speech–demand that the military cease the crackdown and release detainees by signing a petition, spreading the word, and contacting Chinese consulates and embassies to express your solidarity. Show China that the world is watching. Tell them, “I stand with Tibetans in Ngaba”.

For ways to take action, and a timeline of recent events, visit:

Further Reading:

Tibetans Defend Kirti Monastery (Radio Free Asia)

Monk immolates himself; major protests at Tibetan monastery violently suppressed (International Campaign for Tibet)

Monk sets himself alight on the anniversary of Tibetan protest (Free Tibet)

Stand-off in Ngaba: Tibetan Monks Need Your Help (Students for a Free Tibet)

Tibetan monk burns to death in China protest (Reuters)

Tibetan Who Set Himself Afire Dies (New York Times)

Tibetan Monk’s Self-Immolation Sparks Major Protest in Eastern Tibet (Students for a Free Tibet)



    1. Thank you, Jeff. I am safe and sound in the US right now, which is why I have taken up writing bolder posts. I wish I could say that the Tibetans inside Tibet had the same opportunity to express their opinions or find a safe haven.

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