22. Damchoe Sangpo

Name: Damchoe Sangpo

Age: 38 Sex: Male

Profession: Monk at Bongthak Monastery, Tsonub, Amdo Date of Self-immolation: 17 February 2012

Location: Themchen County, Tsojang, Amdo, Northeastern Tibet

Current whereabouts/wellbeing: Deceased

His slogans: Not available

Damchoe Sangpo, who self-immolated at Themchen County town on 17 February 2012, was a member of his monastery’s Democratic Management Committee (DMC). These Beijing government-imposed administrations control all monasteries in today’s Tibet. He was the first monastic official to self-immolate. Damchoe reportedly died at the site of his protest. According to Radio Free Asia Tibetan Service, citing an India-based senior Tibetan monk, Lama Shingsa, “After the Tibetan New Year, which in Qinghai’s Amdo regiondamchoesangpo coincides with the Chinese New Year, Chinese officials banned the [monastery’s] Monlam religious gathering and sent armed security forces there. Damchoe objected to this and told the Chinese officials that if they didn’t withdraw their troops from the monastery, the monks should not be held responsible for any incident that might follow.” Other informants corroborate that Damchoe had opposed the draconian “Patriotic Education” campaign inflicted on Bongthak Monastery. As a result of Damchoe Sangpo’s action, three monks from his monastery were subsequently arrested and sentenced for alleged involvement in his death. “The director of Bongthak Monastery, Venerable Jamsem, was sentenced to nine years, while his subordinates Khendup and Samgyal were sentenced to 11 and 10 years, respectively,” said a resident of the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In addition, the source said, a layman named Damchoe was re-arrested by police for organizing a campaign to collect signatures from Tibetans in the Bongthak area calling for the release of eight monks detained in the aftermath of Damchoe Sangpo’s self-immolation. Damchoe, from Kharma in Themchen County, was previously arrested for allegedly instigating Damchoe Sangpo’s self-immolation, but was released after a Chinese lawyer successfully led his defense. The source reports that the majority of Bongthak’s monks had left the monastery following increased Chinese pressure, and another 10 young monks are still detained in Themchen County; the police said they would only be released if they agree to disrobe. “Currently, two monks loyal to China have been put in charge of Bongthak Monastery, while another monk … was pressured to take a high-level position there, but disrobed to evade the appointment promotion.” (Democratic Management Committees and Patriotic Education campaigns were introduced throughout Tibet by Beijing in 1996 to force nuns and monks to denounce the Dalai Lama and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party).

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