Tenzin Choeying

July 14, 2017;

2017/ Tenzin Choeying, 19, a third year student at the Central University for Tibetan Studies, died on July 22 after dousing himself with kerosene and setting himself on fire on July 14 outside the entrance to his hall of residence in Varanasi. As he burned he shouted, “Victory to Tibet”. Students and staff extinguished the fire and he was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

“I burned myself only for Tibet” said Choeying from his hospital bed, and continued, “Since I was a small boy I always wanted to do something for Tibet as Tibet is illegally occupied by the Chinese government, and the current policies of the Chinese government like wiping out Tibetan language and culture is another reason for my protest”.

Choeying’s parents travelled up from the Kollegal Tibetan Settlement in South India. His condition deteriorated and he was airlifted to Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi for further treatment.

He was a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) chapter in Varanasi and the Tibetan Youth Buddhist Association. He was related to the writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue who posted regular updates on Choeying’s condition and said, “Support, and messages of love are pouring in from all across the Tibetan community, and from non-Tibetans from around the world”.

On arrival in Delhi Choeying’s condition deteriorated. An emergency prayer session for his recovery was held in Tibetan Children’s Village Day School in McLeod Ganj Dharamsala and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, included prayers for him at their prayer meeting for Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. Sikyong Lobsang Sangay called for all Tibetans to pray for Choeying, saying, “While we understand the intention behind the act of self-immolation, we must remember that the life of every Tibetan is precious and that we must be alive to fight for our cause…every life lost is a huge loss for us and our cause”.

Pawo Tenzin Choeying died from his 90% burns on July 22 in Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.
His body was taken initially to Samyeling Tibetan Refugee Colony in Delhi. The Tibetan Youth Congress, at the request of Choeying’s family, organised his onward transport to Dharamshala and set up the cremation for the morning of July 26 in accordance with Tibetan astrological calculations.

On the way from Delhi to Dharamshala, the motorcade stopped briefly at the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah to enable the students and staff paid their last respects before arriving in Mcleod Ganj on the morning of July 25 where he was welcomed by crowds of Tibetans and Indians. A prayer ceremony was held with his family in the TYC office where the media, who had turned out in force, pressed Choeyang’s parents for a personal statement.

Choeying’s mother Tashi Yangzom, expressed sadness for the loss and pride for the sacrifice by her youngest son, while Choeying’s father, Ngawang Khedup said: “I have no regrets, but I plead with the new generation to explore other means to fight for freedom”.
Tributes and condolences poured in: Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay; a representative from HH the Karmapa’s Tsurphu Labrang; the Treasury Secretary of Gyuto Tantric Monastery all paid a visit to the parents, as did Norbu Tsering, Chairman of Local Assembly, Kollegal Refugee Camp who came specially to Dharamshala to represent the settlement. Tibetan shops in McLeod Ganj remained closed for the day.

Students from the Tibetan Institute of Medicine and Astrology held an all night prayer vigil in the TYC headquarters and on July 26, the day of the cremation, Tibetan trantric practitioner Sonam Dorjee performed a series of prayer rituals.Mass prayers were held in the three biggest monasteries in exile, Sera, Drepung and Ganden in South India and reports of prayers gatherings poured in from San Francisco, Minnesota, Ontario, NYNJ, Kullu-Manali, Kollegal, CUTS Varanasi, Sarah College, Australia, Rome, Ladakh and elsewhere.

Choeying was the youngest of four siblings. His parents urged young Tibetans to live for Tibet and contribute to the Tibetan cause by making use of the international platforms rather than resorting to self-immolation.They said that youth must fight for the cause through education and non violence and stressed the importance of preserving the Tibetan cultural heritage and language.
Choeying was the ninth Tibetan to self-immolate outside Tibet. The first self-immolation in Tibet was in February 27, 2009 when a Tibetan monk named Tapey set fire to himself. 149 self-immolations have taken place inside Tibet.

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