China detains family, relatives of Tibetan self-immolator

A Tibetan protester lies in flames on a street in Machu county, Gansu, Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo courtesy: RFA)
A Tibetan protester lies in flames on a street in Machu county, Gansu, Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo courtesy: RFA)

(, Dec11, 2016) – The Tibetan who carried out a protest self-immolation and burned to death in Machu (Chinese: Maqu) County of Gansu Province on Dec 8 evening has been described as a 33-year old father of three named Tashi Rabten. The Tibetan Service of Radio Free Asia (Washington) Dec 9 cited an unnamed local Tibetan as saying witnesses had heard Rabten “call out for freedom for Tibet and for the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama.”

He was also said to have shouted for the release of the Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima recognized by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Gendun Choekyi Nyima has remained disappeared since the Chinese government kidnapped him, with his family, in Apr 1995.

Chinese police were reported to have visited Rabten’s home at Mema Township’s Terchu Village after the incident and ordered the family to say the self-immolation had no connection with Chinese government policies, that it had been carried out due to problems at home. However, the Chinese police were then reported to have taken away Rabten’s widow and 15-year-old daughter.

The exile Tibetan administration’s said Dec 10 that Rabten was 31 and his wife and two children were taken away by Chinese police. It also said Rabten was a former monk from Machu’s Teushel village.

The Radio Free Asia report said other relatives of the deceased self-immolator were held when they visited the Chinese police to seek the return of his body.

According the Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Dec 9, Rabten had poured petrol on himself in a public toilet and then walked in a ball of fire along the wall adjacent to a vegetable market. It added that he continued to shout his slogans and calls until he collapsed to the ground.

The reports said Rabten was the cousin of Tsering Kyi, a 20-year-old student who had self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule and died in Mar 2012. Both the self-immolations reportedly took place at the same spot.


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