Tension is high in the area following an incident on Friday when a monk from the same area was shot after setting himself on fire, following a similar ban on the Monlam Chenmo (Great Prayer Festival) at Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Sichuan province. The Chinese state media has confirmed that a monk from Kirti was taken to hospital with burns on his head and neck.
The incident today occurred at around 9 am when approximately 600 monks at Sey monastery near Ngaba town (approximately 1.5 kilometers from Kirti monastery) were told by officials that they were not permitted to celebrate the Monlam Chenmo festival.
At some point the monks present stood up and left the prayer hall. According to the same source, there are likely to have been as many as 600 monks.
Armed police arrived at the scene, and according to two of the reports, Sey monks began to return to the monastery, where they are now surrounded by armed police personnel and likely to be under lockdown after the protest.
The Chinese state media has confirmed that a monk, who has been identified by Tibetan sources as Tapey, walked out of the Kirti Monastery in Aba, Sichuan province, and set himself on fire in a local street on Friday afternoon, Xinhua news agency said, citing the local Communist Party chief, Shi Jun.
Tapey had set himself on fire after officials announced a ban on marking the Monlam prayer festival at Kirti. The Monlam (Great Prayer) Festival, falls on 4th -11th day of the 1st Tibetan month in Tibetan Buddhism – directly after the Tibetan New Year (Losar).
The ban on Monlam Chenmo reported at Kirti and Sey is a further example of the way in which state repression of religion has created deepening tension in Tibet, the opposite of the ‘genuine stability’ the Chinese government states it is seeking in Tibet.
The crackdown in Ngaba has been particularly severe following a major protest involving monks from Kirti monastery and local people on March 16 last year, and the presence of troops in the area has been stepped up more recently.
This is the only known period since the anniversary of the March 1959 Uprising when protests have continued in Tibetan areas despite the severity of the Chinese government’s response since March 10 last year.