A Tibetan self-immolated in Nagchu, in 2015. Photo: Representative image

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Dharamshala, India — A Tibetan in occupied Tibet self-immolated five years ago in protest against the brutal policies of China in Tibet. The incident came to light five years later only under the excessive control and constant surveillance of China over Tibet. The lack of basic freedom in Tibet, pushed Tibetans to take extreme steps such as self-immolations.

A Tibetan named Shurmo, self-immolated in occupied Tibet in 2015, in an attempt to expose China’s repressive rule over Tibet. The 26-year old man self-immolated on September 17, 2015 around 1 pm local time, near a bus station in Shagchukha village, in Driru county, Nagchu prefecture in so called “Tibet Autonomous Region” of Tibet.

He was arrested immediately by the local Chinese police. He was taken to the hospital and passed away on the same day. The Chinese police then arrested three of his relatives. The incident of Shurmo’s self-immolation reached the outside world five years later only because of the restrictive, repressive policies and tight surveillance of the Communist regime of China in Tibet.

The 26-year old Shurmo hails from Shagchukha village in Nagchu county of traditional Kham province of Tibet. There were many Tibetan eyewitnesses to Shurmo’s self-immolation protest that day, but due to the Chinese government’s utterly atrocious and excessively repressive policies and internet censorship in Tibet, this self-immolation incident broke out of Tibet only now, more than five years later. There is no further information available regarding his family members and wellbeing of the three relatives arrested. Whether they are still imprisoned, sentenced or released.

China-Tibet: The one thing you need to know

1.2 Million Tibetans have been killed in this conflict since Tibet was violently and illegally occupied, according to international law, by China in 1949/1950. More than 100,000 Tibetans have been forced to flee their homeland and now live in Exile communities around the world. Until today, rule of law or basic human rights were non-existent in Tibet. Surveillance, repression and arbitrary arrests are daily routine. Despite the continued suppression, the Tibetan people choose the path of nonviolent resistance and for that, they deserve our utmost respect and full support.

Over the past 70 decades, there has been ongoing political repression, social discrimination, economic marginalization, environmental destruction, and cultural assimilation, particularly due to Chinese migration to Tibet which is fuelling intense resentment among the people of occupied Tibet.

The communist-totalitarian state of China began its invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.

Until 1949, Tibet was an independent nation in the Himalayas which had little contact with the rest of the world. It existed as a rich cultural storehouse — unifying theme among the Tibetans — as was their own language, literature, art, and world view developed by living at high altitudes, under harsh conditions, in a balance with their environment.