TIBET, 2 January 2013
Pawo (hero) Kalsang Jinpa was born in 1995, in a place called Dong-nge, a part of the large Doba nomadic tribe of Amdo Rebkong, to Dechok Kyi, the daughter of Elderman Lama Kyab and Yulo.
He was brought up by his grandparents and went to Dowa primary school at the age of nine. In 2007, when he was thirteen years of age, he became a monk and enrolled himself at Rongpo monastery to study Buddhism.
In 2008 the Rebkong Armed Police chained his hands and feet and tortured him for two days under the pretext of having protested against the higher authorities.
In 2009 he received an award for attaining first position in an oral examination in the school.
On 15 August 2009 he completed his graduation and received his degree from Rebkong Shar Kyabgon, who spoke very highly of his academic result and moral conduct, and advised him to continue to strive for his further education.
During a pilgrimage tour of Lhasa in January of 2010, when he was returning from a visit to Gaden monastery, the Taktser County Security Police detained him without any reason. After two days he was released with an order forcing him to put on layman’s clothes in place of his monk’s robe. This must have created an unforgettably large wound in his heart.
In 2011, at the age of seventeen, he was promoted to the intermediate class of Rongpo Dialectic School. Because of his diligence, respect to the elders, and love for the younger ones, everyone considered him a noble monk. In February of 2012, at the age of eighteen, he returned home and became a member of Tani Mother Tongue Club.
He put extra efforts on the issue of speaking pure Tibetan mother tongue, and received the second position award in a competition identifying Tibetan terms for many articles of daily use.
On 8 November 2012 (25th Day of the Ninth Tibetan month), at about 4 pm, Kalsang Jinpa sacrificed his precious life by setting himself on fire at the gate of Rongpo Monastery. He demanded the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile, equality of all nationals, freedom of language, and protection of environment, by raising these slogans, verbally and in writing. While on fire he ran more than hundred seventy steps on the Dolma playground before collapsing and eventually becoming a Bodhisattva.
The above-mentioned is the biography of the late Kalsang Jinpa, so I do not need to repeat it for the readers here. Both in the beginning and the end of this year, fifteen people from Rebkong, between the ages of forty and seventeen, have expressed their mental agonies by lighting themselves on fire, signaling the long-cherished wishes of all Tibetans, including the people of Rebkong. The majority of people have been understanding this message as such.
The day martyr Kalsang Jinpa burned himself on fire was 8 November 2012, the exact day that was very important for China and watched carefully by all people, nationally and internationally.
It must have been the time when the General Secretaries of the Communist Party of Malho Prefecture, Sichuan Province, etc., were busily preparing to attend the 18th Congress organised by the Central government.
Response of Chinese government
This event forced the Communist Party Secretary of Malho Prefecture to rush to Rebkong, and to impose restrictions in both the upper and lower Rebkong. We began to see army and armed police everywhere. Moreover the civil servants of more than two hundred government offices started roaming the streets, and they kept vigil day and night.
Even under such restrictions, the tributes paid and the prayer ceremonies conducted by the general Tibetan public for the martyrs were unprecedented, and that boosted the moral and confidence of the ordinary people further.
The past enmity between Tibetan groups have come to a point of conciliation. For instance, not only did many years of conflict between Rebkong Shadrang and Rebkong Chuma resolved, but also more than thirty-forty years of tension between Rebkong Doba and Ladrang Achok was reconciled. We can judge this from the fact that even the grudge between individuals has naturally vanished.
But at that time the Communist Party Secretary of Malho Prefecture, during a Malho TV interview, has propagated the disinformation: “those who self-immolated did so because of issues of family problems, economic problems, and mental insanity.”
On the other hand, it was also announced that the special medical aid, stipend for sustenance, and electricity would be cut for those areas where self-immolations took place.
Nevertheless, the aspirations of the general Tibetan public were the impacts of the last words of the Tibetan martyrs, including Kalsang Jinpa, and not the trivial issues of family problems and economic conditions that they [Chinese officials] propagate.
As mentioned above, the reason for martyr Kalsang Jinpa’s immolation was also portrayed as his unbearable family problems after his dismissal from the monastery. Their oppressive action of changing the truth into falsehood practically breaks the hearts of family members and relatives of the deceased. To whom do we tell these stories of the poor Tibetan nationals being bullied?
Who is going to be the witness of justice even when the tears collect in our eyes and the fever increases in our hearts?
In reality Kalsang Jinpa’s household is one of the richest among the Doba nomadic families, and moreover he was a fortunate child who had been very affectionately and happily brought up by his parents. In addition, his uncle is a popular Lama and a scholar as well. And his uncle was his teacher during the time when he was enrolled in the Rongpo monastery.
Therefore to misrepresent these facts, even when martyr Kalsang Jinpa’s economic condition of his family and background are crystal clear, is nothing other than pouring ice-cold water in the hearts of his family members and of the Tibetan people.
At this time, the foreign office spokesperson of the central government told the international media that the self-immolations were instigated by “the Dalai clique”. It is very clear for everyone to see what kind of gap and paradox existed between the comments of the Secretary of Malho Prefecture and the foreign office spokesperson. In fact this was merely a mistake made while preparing to assemble a lie in front of the international community.
If I were to remember martyr Kalsang Jinpa once again, I would say that he always came with a smiling face and joyful spirit. He always spoke very softly and bowed his head to everyone elder than him in respect. Even a stranger could easily see that he belonged to a respectable family.
At this time I am unable to press the keys on my keypad as I had to wipe tears rolling from my face.
Nevertheless, on 8 November 2012, at around 4 O’clock in the afternoon, Kalsang Jinpa, at the age of eighteen, poured kerosene oil on his youthful body and lighted himself. While his body was engulfed in flames, he raised his fist high in the sky and shouted, “Ethnic equality! Language freedom; Environmental protection,” and ran more than hundred and seventy steps.
He finally collapsed on the right side of the Tara statue of Rongpo monastery. Within a few moments he became a handful of bones. He did this for the sake of Tibetan people and the Buddha Dharma. I pray that the future Tibetan generation will not forget this, and the movers and shakers of the world will hear this.
At this point I would like to make a clarification. The reason why all these Tibetan martyrs, including Kalsang Jinpa, chose this ultimate sacrifice of self-immolation was not because they were misguided, silly or ignorant.
For instance, where Pawo Kalsang Jinpa was concerned, he has both parents and grandparents alive. He has his kind uncle, elder brother and other relatives. Like everyone else he did not want to be separated from them even for a second.
But he was compelled to choose this unfortunate path, with honor, for the freedom of the Tibetan people and as protest against the oppressive rule of the Chinese government.
If there had been space and environment to express one’s aspirations openly, then there is no doubt that he would have led the masses, with banners flying high, for the protection of freedom, peace, religion, language, and environment.
But under this type of tyrannical regime, such an opportunity remains only as a dream.
In the Chinese media, instead of reporting how to respect the aspirations of the people and fulfill the demands made through this path of immolations, blame the victims as misguided and instigated by others.
The main reason was the prevalent Chinese perception of these Tibetan martyrs and Tibetan people as uncivilised, barbarian, parasite, ignorant, and animal-like.
Tibetan martyrs: a stone pillar of non-violence
Leaving aside this dictatorial regime, even the United Nations, European Union, United States of America, etc., who advocate for democracy and peace, do not care to listen to the sporadic appeals, posters and slogans.
Therefore these Tibetan martyrs, by setting fire to themselves, with their courage, determination, and enlightened spirit, have not only made an appeal to the world community for freedom and peace, but also provided us with a wake-up call.
The actions of these nearly one-hundred Tibetan martyrs, including Kalsang Jinpa, have erected a stone pillar of non-violence, freedom, equality, and liberty in the world that will remain firm for many aeons to come.
About the author
This letter comes from Tibet. The author’s name is withheld for obvious reasons.