Pema Gyaltsen also known as Pegyal, 24, has self-immolated near Tsoga monastery in Nyagrong, Kham, eastern Tibet on March 18 to protest against the illegal occupation of Tibet by the Chinese regime, reports Radio Free Asia. This is the first reported self-immolation protest inside Tibet since the start of this year.
The police removed his charred body from the location of his protest. Initially it was not known whether Pegyal had survived, but the Tibet Express reported on March 22 that their sources in the region say he is in a critical condition in hospital in Chengdu.
RFA quotes Pema Gyaltsen as having “called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for freedom in Tibet”. A video is circulating on social media showing a huge police presence at the self-immolation site.
A group of Gyaltsen’s relatives went to Kardze county police station to try and see him but were detained overnight, beaten and forced to spend the night standing up. “Today some of them could barely walk from the beating, but they were released under the guarantee of a Nyagrong official,” added RFA’s source.
Very little information is getting through because of the communications crackdown and block on the use of WeChat (a popular messaging app used across Tibet) in the region.
Pema Gyaltsen was the eldest of five siblings and sole breadwinner for his parents and siblings.
This case is the second self-immolation protest in Nyarong. Kalsang Wangdue, an 18 year old monk died in a self-immolation protest there on February 29 last year near his monastery, Retsokha Aryaling monastery. On that same day, Dorjee Tsering, a 15 year old Tibetan student living in India also self-immolated to protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet and succumbed to his burns after three days.
Gyaltsen is the 146th Tibetan to self-immolate in Tibet since the first in 2009 which set off the current spate of self-immolation protests which has been happening since across Tibet. Most of these protestors call for Tibetan freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet; His Holiness has been living in exile since escaping Tibet during the failed uprising there in 1959.
The Chinese authorities have criminalised self-immolation and there are many reported cases of people being imprisoned for showing support, however remote, for these protests or protestors.