XINING, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Sitting on the bare ground of her bedroom, Geru Gye, 17, wrote randomly on her Tibetan textbook with a pencil.
She would neither raise her head nor utter a word, however hard a Xinhua journalist tried to break the silence.
Her younger sister, Wan Khengyal, 16, burned herself to death in a meadow close to her house using petrol from her father's motorbike on the evening of Dec. 9, 2012.
It is one of several recent cases in which Tibetan self-immolations have left behind little more than harrowing grief, and mistruths in foreign media about the victims' supposed heroism.
Before her self-immolation, Wan Khengyal drove more than 20 yaks home.
Geru Gye was doing her homework at a classmate's home that evening and planned to stay for the night. Her father, Sonam Tsering, was attending a prayer service at the village head's home.
Only her sick mother, Se Maotso, was at home, huddling up in the corner of the bedroom. Se Maotso saw a burning light around 6:45 p.m. and shouted for help.
It was too late when Se Maotso's brother, who was 300 meters away, arrived at the scene.
It has been over one month since the tragedy, but Geru Gye still feels guilty about her absence that night.
Geru Gye is a grade-nine student at the Zeku County No. 2 Ethnic Middle School in northwest China's Qinghai Province and her sister was two grades below her in the same school.
Wan Khengyal was feeble and sick. She had fainted several times in class. The school principal arranged for the sisters to live in the same dormitory to let them better take care of each other.
In the eyes of her father, Wan Khengyal was introverted and an avid reader during vacations. She was also a good helper in herding. He can not figure out how his daughter could end her life in such a cruel way.
"I would have supported both my daughters' schooling for as long as they wished," he sobs.
Although Wan Khengyal was a diligent student, she did not perform well academically. She ranked 50th out of the 52 students in her class in the mid-term examination last year.
She was suspected of having epilepsy, which made her suffer a lot and have a tendency of self-mutilation, said Kelsang Drolma, her head teacher.
Losing confidence in life and developing affection for the frequent self-immolation cases in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Wan Khengyal was prompted to follow suit, the head teacher explained.
Photos of Wan Khengyal were sent to foreign websites right after her self-immolation. She came to be regarded as a "national hero" who sacrificed her life for "Tibetan causes."
A mandarin program from Radio Free Asia on Dec. 30 said Wan Khengyal called a friend before her self-immolation and said, "We have no freedom. I will self-immolate for Tibet's dignity."
But Sonam Tsering said her daughter had no cell phone, nor did they have a fixed line. Police investigation likewise proved that Wan Khengyal never used a cell phone.
The conceptualization of Wan Khengyal and others like her as "national heroes" is obviously a lie made up by foreign media.
Multiple Tibetan self-immolations have occurred in Huangnan, according to the prefecture's public security bureau.
The root of cases is overseas instigation, said Lu Benqian, deputy head of the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department.
Most of the so-called "national heroes" are around 20 years old, including monks, nuns, herdsmen and students. They have not formed their ideology and are easy to be affected by outside instigation, Lu said.
Many of the self-immolation practitioners were immersed in a hard life, emotional twists and turns or stubborn illness, which made them more likely to commit suicide, he said.
Some of them took part in the funerals of previous self-immolators and formed hopes that fatally setting themselves alight in the same way would allow them an escape from hardships in life.
Encouraged by propaganda from the "Tibetan government-in-exile," they dreamed of becoming "heroes" and winning posthumous adoration from Tibetan Buddhism believers through the inhumane acts, according to Lu.
The Second Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People, organized by the "Tibetan government-in-exile" in Dharamsala, India, in September 2012, ranked self-immolation as the highest form of non-violent action.
"A special memorial hall should be built with displays of the pictures and the personal stories of each such martyr," ordered the meeting's action plan and resolution.
Analyzing other recent self-immolation only serves to reinforce the flaws behind such propaganda and myth-making, however.
Jinpa, 23, who was a monk in the Rongwo Monastery of Tongren County for 10 years, planned his fiery suicide in response to a run of events which brought him a sense of shame.
On the afternoon of Nov. 8, when the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China opened in Beijing, Jinpa set himself alight in the monastery and ran to the Regong Cultural Square nearby. He died soon after.
Jinpa met a waitress at a restaurant in Tongren several years ago and fell in love with her. He resumed secular life in early 2012 for the woman named Tsering Drolma.
But Jinpa discovered that Tsering Drolma was a prostitute. He caught venereal disease from her, according to Jigme Tenzin, Jinpa's closest friend in the monastery.
"It doesn't make any sense living in this world. My family do not care about me after I returned to secular life," Jinpa told Jigme Tenzin one night before his self-immolation. "I have no social status as I am not a monk any more. I also got this weird skin disease from her."
That night, Jigme Tenzin and Jinpa watched a Tibetan-language TV program, Voice of America, at a dormitory in the Rongwo Monastery with a satellite dish. The anchor mentioned two self-immolators who killed themselves on Nov. 4 and Nov. 7 respectively.
Jinpa said, "Those self-immolators are so great. They are Bodhisattvas," according to Jigme Tenzin.
Jinpa told his friend that he "must self-immolate tomorrow as a conference would convene." Jinpa asked him to take photos of his self-immolation and send the photos abroad through a person with an iPhone.
Jigme Tenzin did so and sent the photos to India through a monk in the Rongwo Monastery. Foreign journalists dubbed Jinpa a "national hero sacrificing for Tibet's freedom."
However, "the idea of self-immolators being national heroes" is nonsense, said Ma Shenglin, a researcher with the Qinghai Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
Those who have made great contributions to the country's territorial integrity during wartime and to the improvement of people's livelihood during peaceful times deserve to be called "national heroes," Ma argued.
The self-immolators in Huangnan had been manipulated by the Dalai clique as pawns of agitating "Tibetan independence." What they did is against the spirit of national heroism and does not deserve the respect of the Tibetan people, he said.
Drolma Je is one of very few attempted self-immolators who survived to see the error of their ways.
Speaking from a detention center in Qinghai province, the 25 year old now sees himself as conflicted when, on Nov. 19, he prepared to set himself alight at a hotel room in Tongren County. It was lucky he called his elder cousin, Padrong Tso, to his room to witness his gesture.
"It was better to have a loved one by my side," he said.
Padrong Tso knew what Drolma Je was going to do after seeing a lighter, a bucket of petrol, butter lamp, Tibetan incense, pesticide and a Dalai Lama portrait in the room. She yelled at him and poured all the petrol into the toilet.
Notwithstanding a big black birthmark on the right of his forehead, Drolma Je, wearing a pair of sports shoes and jeans, is a truly handsome man. He attended a Tibetan-Chinese bilingual primary school and can skillfully surf the Internet on his cell phone. He is nicknamed "happiness" on QQ, China's most popular online chat tool.
He described himself as a devout Buddhist and has made pilgrimages to several monasteries in Tibet and Gansu Province.
"Killing is not allowed in Tibetan Buddhism, let alone killing oneself," he reflected.
Last summer, Drolma Je met his fellow villager, Phagpa, twice after the latter came back from Dharamsala. Phagpa told him of the self-immolation cases in neighboring Sichuan Province and encouraged him to follow suit.
"If you burn yourself, it will be good for Tibetan independence and the return of the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan region," Phagpa told him.
Self-immolation was on Drolma Je's mind from that point on.
Attending the celestial burial of Jinpa on Nov. 8 only made his desire for self-immolation grow stronger.
But, he said in his detention center, "It was too abrupt. My parents, brothers and sisters were implicated. My life was also ruined.
"I want to continue to be a monk after I get out of prison. If that's not possible, I'd like to be a herdsman."