Date of Self-immolation: 3 March 2012
Location: Machu town, Amdo, Northeastern Tibet Current whereabouts/wellbeing: Deceased
Her slogans: Not Known
Schoolgirl Tsering Kyi torched her body at a busy vegetable market in Machu town in protest against the Chinese illegal occupation of Tibet. The police on the scene reportedly beat her as they attempted to put out the flames and she died on the spot.
This was the first self-immolation protest to take place in Machu — a traditional Tibetan area of Amdo. A few days prior to her immolation protest, Tsering was heard saying at her home, “In Ngaba and other areas of Tibet, Tibetans are burning themselves. We should do something for Tibet – life is meaningless if we don’t do something for Tibet.”
According to the Dharamshala-based Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Chinese security personnel arrived at the scene of the protest and shut down the market. “All mobile phones were confiscated in an attempt the stop the news of the protest from spreading,” the release said. “People at the scene of the protest were issued a strict warning against speaking about the self-immolation.”
The authorities also barricaded the school Tsering Kyi attended. The police later visited her house for identification of its inhabitants and carried out door-to-door searches in the neighbourhood. Websites operating from the region were shut down and heads of the regional government offices reportedly held a meeting following the protest.
Reporting on the self-immolation protest, US-based Radio Free Asia said that Chinese market vendors threw stones at the girl’s burning body, citing an unidentified Tibetan exile with connections to the community in Machu. “The Tibetans present in the market were agitated and this almost resulted in a major clash between the Tibetans and Chinese,” RFA quoted a source as saying.
Tsering Kyi‘s body lay in local police custody while family members and local Tibetans were demanding possession of the body for last rites. “Chinese authorities have told Tsering Kyi’s family members to sign a letter stating that her self-immolation was not political in nature. Only then will they be allowed to take the body away,” reported an exile source.
However, Tsering Kyi’s family members are said to have rejected China’s attempts at covering up the motivations behind her self-immolation and warned of protests if the authorities failed to hand over the body. Although Tsering Kyi’s family rejected Beijing’s attempts at de-politicising her fatal action, China’s State news agency, Xinhua, nevertheless went ahead in blaming “a head injury” for her self- immolation. “Tsering Kyi had suffered ‘occasional fainting spells’ after hitting her head on a radiator in a classroom, and falling into a coma,” according to Xinhua.