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Monk in Tibet sets himself on fire; shot by police during protest

March 1, 2009

27 February, 2009
International Campaign for Tibet

A Kirti monk in his mid-twenties was shot today by security personnel
when he set himself on fire as a form of protest after prayer ceremonies
at his monastery were cancelled, according to several sources in the
area. It is not known if the monk, Tapey, is still alive as he was
surrounded by police after he fell to the ground. He had been holding a
home-made Tibetan flag that had at its center a photograph of the Dalai

According to at least three sources in contact with people in Ngaba
(Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo), earlier
today, monks at Kirti Monastery were told by the local authorities that
they were not allowed to observe Monlam, a traditional prayer festival
that is held after Tibetan New Year (Losar).

It is not known why the authorities issued this order, but it is
consistent with other provocative official moves that are deepening
tension in Tibet. Despite this order, hundreds of Kirti monks gathered
outside Kirti's prayer hall to go ahead with the prayers. But they were
urged to stop by senior monks and some local officials who feared
adverse consequences, according to the same sources, which include monks
from the Kirti monastery in exile in Dharamsala, India. The monks then
dispersed, but Tapey then left the monastery.

Early in the afternoon, according to at least two sources including one
who spoke to an eyewitness, Tapey walked alone to a nearby crossroads in
the market area of the town. He had already doused himself with oil by
the time he reached the crossroads. He then set himself on fire and
raised a home-made Tibetan flag that had at its center a photograph of
the Dalai Lama. When Tapey began to shout slogans (no details are yet
known of what he said), People's Armed Police (PAP) personnel stationed
nearby opened fire, and Tapey fell to the ground. Reports indicate that
the fire was extinguished by the PAP after Tapey was shot and he was
immediately taken away by police. It is not known if he survived.
Reports from the area indicate that monks are carrying out prayer
rituals for him.

The crackdown in Ngaba has been particularly severe following a major
protest involving monks from Kirti monastery on March 16 last year, and
the presence of troops in the area has been stepped up more recently. At
least 10 Tibetans - including 16 year old schoolgirl Lhundup Tso - were
shot dead last year after police opened fire on unarmed Tibetans who
joined the spontaneous protest after a morning prayer session at Kirti
monastery on March 16, 2008.

Many more monks and laypeople were detained, tortured or 'disappeared'
since then, and during police raids on their monastery photographs of
the Dalai Lama and senior religious leaders were destroyed. In recent
months foreigners have been blocked from entering Ngaba.
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