Self-immolation truth: Tibetan Buddhism kidnapped by politics

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At that time, however, a competition concerning the life and death of Phuntsog was going on in Aba between the police and Drongzhug, Phuntsog's uncle and teacher who later admitted to the police that he had arranged for an overnight transfer of his seriously injured nephew from the home of a Tibetan doctor up onto a sky-burial in Yunlong village, a religious site for burial ceremony during which the body of the dead would be dismembered by a burial master and left for birds to feed on.

A temple in Aba. [file photo]

Left unattended in the freezing cold for 11 hours, Phuntsog was only just breathing when he was spotted by the police and sent to the People' s Hospital of Aba County.

Surgeon Wang Defu said that emergency treatment was crucial in the first few hours. Treatment delay, large-area body surface and respiratory burns led to Phuntsog's death.

During a public trial, Dongzhug called himself "legal illiteracy," saying he had never been to school and was unaware of his infringement of the laws. Dongzhug and another two Kirti monks responsible for Phuntsog's death were accused of homicide and each sentenced to 10-13 years in jail.

"Why did Dongzhug hide Phuntsog? They didn't want him to be cured otherwise they would be unable to use his death to raise the anti-China morale across Tibetan community," said an official close to the case.

Criminals were brought to justice but the overseas splitting forces wouldn't give up. On August 20, Students for A Free Tibet, a New York-based organization advocating Tibet independence, honored Phuntsog together with Tsewang Norbu, a 29-year-old monk of the Nyitso Monastery in Daofu county who died shortly after setting himself on fire on August 15, with the Lhakar Award, praising the two's "unimaginable sacrifice and protest of the Chinese government's repression and for the freedom of Tibet."

The Tibetan word "Lhakar" literally means "White Wednesday," a weekday considered special by Tibetans because it is the soul-day of the Dalai Lama, the group has preached, calling for more acts of defiance and resistance in Tibet.

Less than one month later, Phuntsog's brother Katrang, aged 18, and Kunchok Tenpa, 16, both from the Kirti Monastery, imitated such unimaginable sacrifices but were rescued by the patrolling police on September 26.

Apart from being tempted by the heroism played up overseas, police say that young Kirti monks must also cope with senior lamas who pulled the strings from within.

In a seemingly casual talk, Rala Lodro, a 40-year-old painter and lama from Longzang village of Aba county, approached Katrang and Kunchok Tenpa while they were eating sunflower seeds in the monastery courtyard, and advised them to commit self-immolation during the daytime.

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