DHARAMSHALA, August 11: Choepa, the 24 –year-old Tibetan who set himself on fire on August 10 in an apparent protest against China’s continued occupation of Tibet, has passed away.
According to the exile base of Kirti Monastery in Dharamshala, Choepa breathed his last hours after his fiery protest in the Me’uruma region of Amdo Ngaba, eastern Tibet.
“Martyr Choepa passed away at around 3 pm (local time) the very day of his protest,” Kanyag Tsering, a researcher at the Kirti Monastery said. “He died while he was being forcibly taken to the nearby region of Barkham.”
Earlier, eyewitnesses had expressed deep concerns over Choepa’s survival after seeing the severe burn injuries that he had sustained.
Choepa, while engulfed in high flames had raised slogans, before Chinese security personnel arrived at the scene within minutes, doused the flames on his body and forcibly took him away to an undisclosed location.
Tsering said the deceased’s family members were denied the right to give him a traditional Tibetan funeral.
“Chinese authorities cremated Choepa’s body in Barkham itself and later handed over his ashes to the family members.”
This wasn’t Choepa’s first peaceful protest against the Chinese government. Earlier this year, he, along with other Tibetans had led a massive candle light vigil and demonstration in Me’uruma on January 23.
“Following the protests, Chinese security personnel carried out a large-scale manhunt for Choepa, but he had managed to escape,” Tsering said.
Choepa is survived by his parents Paelo and Madron and three other siblings.
As an immediate result of Choepa’s self-immolation protest, the situation in Me'uruma has grown tense with the deployment of a large number of Chinese armed forces in the region.
Since 2009, the growing wave of self-immolations has witnessed 48 Tibetans set themselves on fire demanding freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.