Tibetan writer self-immolates in TAR

A Tibetan writer and poet died Oct. 4 after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese policies in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Gudrup, 43, self-immolated in the town of Driru (Chinese: Biru) in TAR’s Nagqu (Nagchu) prefecture. He left a note on the popular Chinese social networking site QQ.com, in which he called for Tibetans to “foster unity and solidarity” and not “lose courage” in the struggle for freedom. So far, 53 Tibetans have torched themselves to protest Chinese rule. Gudrup’s is the fifth self-immolaiton to be reported in the TAR. The first self-immolation in Lhasa, TAR’s capital, was reported earlier this year.

Gudrup’s self-immolation marked the first instance of such a protest by a Tibetan writer in China known for his political activism. His writings and poems, posted online, were followed by many in the Tibetan community, although they were frequently subjected to censorship restrictions. In a blog post in March, Gudrup wrote of a widening “non-violent movement,” speaking of the spreading self-immolation protests close to the anniversary of the 2008 riots. Gudrup studied at the Tibetan Transit School in Dharamsala, India, before returning to Tibet in 2005. He often used the pen name “Youth of the Snow Realm.”

His self-immolation came less than a week after reports said a young Tibetan died in a similar protest in Qinghai. Earlier this week, exile groups reported four Tibetans, including two teenage monks, were jailed by authorities for conveying news of the protests and assisting a monk in carrying out a self-immolation in Aba, the Sichuan town where most of the protests have taken place. The jail terms ranged from seven to 11 years, the groups said.

Gudrup’s action also came just seven days after more than 400 Tibetan exiles from 26 countries held a meeting in Dharamsala, where they called for an end to self-immolations. “Tibet is a thinly populated country, and in the present situation losing even one life is a great loss for the Tibetan people,” said one resolution issued by the meeting.

The Dalai Lama has said he would “remain neutral” on the question. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader told The Hindu in an interview in July, in his first detailed comments on the self-immolations, that the dramatic protests were “a very, very delicate” issue. He said that it would not be appropriate for him to say anything “negative” about those who had sacrificed their lives. At the same time, he rejected Chinese accusations of a “plot” and stressed that he was not encouraging the protests, instead calling on the Chinese government to rethink its policies in Tibet. (The Hindu, Oct. 5; Radio Free Asia, Oct. 4)