On 27 February 2009 Tapey, a young Tibetan monk, walked out into the street in Ngaba carrying a home-drawn Tibetan flag and a photograph of the Dalai Lama. He doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire, shouting slogans as he burned. People’s Armed Police personnel opened fire and shot Tapey, extinguished the flames and took him away. Tapey is known to have survived but his current whereabouts and well being remain unknown.
With Tibet still reeling from China’s crushing of plateau-wide mass demonstrations in 2008, this form of resistance appeared to be an isolated incident, until March 2011 when a second young monk from Ngaba, Phuntsok, set fire to himself and died. Five years after Tapey’s protest at least 131 Tibetans, young and old, men and women, have lit their bodies on fire across Tibet, calling for freedom and of their wish to bring the Dalai Lama home. The vast majority have lost their lives.