DHARAMSHALA, December 9: Tenzin Phuntsok, 46, who set himself ablaze on December 1 in Chamdo, Tibet, passed away in a Chinese military hospital on Tuesday. Due to heavy security around the hospital and official restrictions in Chamdo, local Tibetans came to know of Tenzin Phuntsok’s death only yesterday.
Reports also indicate that Tenzin Phuntsok’s wife Dolma, who went missing after the self-immolation, has been arrested by Chinese security personnel.
News of Tenzin Phuntsok’s death comes days after Chinese state media, the China Daily last Friday reported that the former monk was in a stable condition.
According to latest reports, Chinese officials are yet to hand over the body of Tenzin Phuntsok to his family.
Speaking to Phayul, Geshe Monlam Tharchin, a member of the Dharamshala based Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile made the revelations.
“This morning, when contacted, we came to know that the family has not yet gained possession over Tenzin Phuntsok’s body to conduct the final rituals,” Geshe Tharchin said.
Accusing China of drumming up “fake stories” relating to the causes behind Tenzin Phuntsok’s self-immolation, Geshe Tharchin said that “even in his final moments” the deceased’s family members were barred from visiting him in the hospital.
“Chinese officials are faking stories in the media saying that Tenzin Phuntsok committed “suicide” for individual interests but the fact is that he burned himself calling for freedom in Tibet,” Geshe Tharchin said.
“People around him, those who witnessed the self-immolation clearly heard that he was shouting freedom slogans while fire was consuming his body”.
On December 1, Tenzin Phuntsok doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet. Eyewitnesses later confirmed that Tenzin Phuntsok was in a very serious condition with one of his arms nearly torn apart.
Tenzin Phuntsok was a former monk at the Karma monastery in Chamdo, Tibet.
The entire Chamdo region, especially the Karma monastery have been facing increased repression after unconfirmed reports emerged of a bomb blast at a Chinese government building in Chamdo on October 26.
Although no casualties were reported following the blast, the Karma monastery was locked down and strict restrictions were placed on its monks. RFA quoted local Tibetans as saying that 70 monks of Karma monastery were detained, while over 40 monks escaped from the monastery into the hills. The current whereabouts of the detained monks remain unknown.
Before setting himself on fire, Tenzin Phuntsok had distributed leaflets expressing his solidarity with the detained monks and criticising Chinese rule.
“When … monks and nuns suffer so much under detention with beatings and excruciating interrogations, I would prefer to die than remain alive,” read one leaflet.
“How can we trust this totalitarian who forbids us from practicing our Buddhism? Mere thinking about those … monks is futile. We should rise up.”
Tenzin Phuntsok is survived by his wife and three young children.