Sonam Topgyal, 26, a monk, became the 142nd person to self-immolate in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. He self-immolated on July 9 at around 4pm in Gesar Square in the Tibetan town of Kyegudo in Qinghai. Photographs showing him on the ground engulfed in flames immediately circulated on social media. The photos also show security personnel forming a cordon around the area and there are anecdotal reports of armed police.
He was a monk from Nangchen County who studied at Dzongsar Monastery in Derge County. Further information about Sonam, his condition and whereabouts, has been difficult to obtain due to the shutdown of telephone and internet services in the region, although it is understood that he was taken to hospital. Sonam’s family home was surrounded by police and local people described “intense fear” in the area.
A week after his protest it was confirmed that Sonam died a as result of his injuries. He left a statement in his will, dated July 1, addressed to the political heads of minority nationalities, in which he spoke about the Chinese government’s repressive policies and the plight of Tibetans in Tibet under Chinese rule. He vehemently urged his fellow Tibetans to be united to resolve the issue of Tibet, saying “The Chinese government…tries to demolish the very existence of minority communities. Political repression, cultural assimilation, economically marginalisation, social discrimination and environmental destruction in Tibet are the key issues in Tibet…we do not have freedom of speech and there is no one to express our problems”.