Three Tibetans suspected of distributing footage of a self-immolation protest in China’s Gansu province last week have been arrested, a Tibetan group said.

The Central Executive Committee of Dhomay (CECD), an organisation based in India that represents the Tibetan province of Dhomey, told US-backed Voice of America that the three were detained last Friday, the day after the protest.

Tashi Rabten
Tashi Rabten’s self-immolated protest last week. Photo: video.

“There is no doubt about the three Tibetans being arrested, but at the moment we don’t have their names,” a spokesperson told VOA.

Footage of former monk Tashi Rabten’s self-immolation reportedly emerged on Tibetan social media websites about an hour after the protest.

‘Not afraid of death’

On Tuesday, a note written by the protester on the day of his death was posted by UK-based NGO Free Tibet. It was written in Chinese and appears to have been written with the help of a friend, the NGO said.

“We are destined to self-immolate in protest for being kept apart from our own faith and nation,” it said.

The note also mentioned the peaceful nature of the Tibetans’ protest and speaks out against violence committed by Chinese authorities during Tibetan uprisings in 1958 and 2008 and the destruction of monasteries in Tibetan regions.

“I want people to understand that we Tibetans are not afraid of death but, for the sake of a peaceful solution, I can only choose the method of self-immolation to warn people that us Tibetans need the care of others, need to live on our own land like real people.”

He ended the letter with: “Long live Tibetans! Long live the Dalai Lama!”

vigil for Tashi Rabten
A vigil for Tashi Rabten in Dharamsala, India. Photo: Screenshot from video.

The CECD spokesperson told VOA that the monk’s family members, including his father and 15-year-old son, were detained overnight and released the next day. Chinese officials cremated Tashi Rabten’s body and returned his ashes to his family, according to CECD.

In 2012 Tsering Kyi, Tashi Rabten’s cousin, died after she self-immolated. She was 20 years old at the time.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.