After pop singer Tsewang Norbu, 81-year-old Taphun self-immolated. Nozin Wangmo was jailed for discussing the issue.
by Lopsang Gurung
One of the saddest facets of the tragedy of Tibet is the self-immolation of monks and lay Buddhists who set themselves on fire to call the attention of the world to the persecution of Tibetans by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Self-immolations gather increasing attention in the West, but nobody has precise statistics about them. One of the reasons is the CCP’s strategy of censoring news. The CCP now claims information about self-immolations is part of “state secrets.” Divulging state secrets is a serious crime.
Last month, Tibetans in the diaspora were able to report the story of a woman from Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province called Nozin Wangmo, the mother of three young children. She was accused of having discussed in public the issue of Tibetan self-immolations, particularly an incident dating back to 2013. In 2020, she was arrested and sentenced to three years in jail for “leaking state secrets.” The court decision sentencing her was also kept secret.
Some news, however, are impossible to conceal. The world reacted in horror when it was revealed, also last month, that Tibetan pop singer Tsewang Norbu, 25, passed away as a result of a self-immolation attempt in February in front of the Potala palace in Lhasa, earlier described by the Chinese authorities as “failed.” Widespread protests erupted in the Tibetan diaspora, and there were attempts at protesting even in Tibet.
The fact that details about the death of Tsewang Norbu were not released, and his body was not handed over to his family, fueled speculation about what really happened. Tsewang Norbu was a rising star on the Tibetan pop music scene, and the son of Sonam Wangmo, a well-known female singer. Unlike his mother, who has participated in CCP-sponsored shows, Tsewang Norbu was critical of the regime.
On April 2, sources in the Tibetan diaspora and the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala itself confirmed that an 81-year-old man called Taphun self-immolated in front of the police station near the Kirti monastery in Ngaba county, Sichuan, known as the capital of self-immolations.
Unconfirmed rumors of other self-immolations have reached Bitter Winter. However, the fate of Nozin Wangmo shows that the efforts of the CCP have now switched to preventing “state secrets” about self-immolation to be leaked and published outside China.