News of Tibetan Self-Immolation Incidents Censored Online
Following a series of self-immolation incidents by Tibetan monks near the Kirti Monastery in Aba Prefecture, Sichuan, security forces clamped down on the immediate area. AFP reported on September 26:
Police have cut Internet services and blocked roads near a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwest China where two monks set themselves alight in a call for religious freedom, according to witnesses.
Authorities in Sichuan province’s Aba county also ordered groups of more than six people together to break up in apparent attempts to prevent protests, and mobile phones could not send or receive text messages, locals said.
The two young monks cried “long live the Dalai Lama” as they set themselves on fire Monday at the Kirti monastery, scene of repeated protests against religious repression, rights groups have said.
Both were reported to have survived and been taken to hospital, but earlier self-immolations by monks at the same monastery have triggered major protests, and local residents reported a heavy police presence on Tuesday.
On September 28, Global Times issued an editorial about the incidents titled, “Monks’ Tragedy Accords with the Dalai Lama’s Schemes” (僧侣悲剧符合达赖的谋算).” Since then, at least three more monks at Kirti Monastery have self-immolated.
An anonymous netizen posted translations of error messages received when posting a search query on Baidu for “monk, self-immolation” and related terms, showing that the “Ministry of Truth” is hard at work trying to scrub all news about the protests. But the anonymous translator continues:
This isn’t to say that Internet users in China are prohibited from discussing incidences of self-immolation. The following is a translation of some of the comments on the Global Times’ editorial:
They’re all a bunch of extremists, they will develop into terrorists. (都是一些极端分子，发展下去就是恐怖分子)
Burn a few more morons like that, and Tibet will be peaceful. (多烧死几个这样的傻瓜，西藏就安宁了。)
Why not let a few more burn themselves to death? If more of the faithful self-immolate, we can label the Dalai Lama an evil cult, and resolutely ban and strike him down. (多自焚几个又何妨?自焚的信徒多了，我们也可以把达赖的一支列为邪教，坚决取缔并打击之。)
Why pay attention to them? We hold the land in our hands, and its a waste of time and effort to negotiate with them. If they want to make trouble, just let them. (理它干嘛，土地在我们手里，和它们谈判是浪费时间和人力，敢闹事就搞它。)
The country should adopt extreme measures with these separatists. The only credible way is to strike at them ruthlessly and mercilessly. (国家对这些分裂分子应该采取极端手段进行无情的狠狠打击才是正道。)
The Tibetan region really has too many Lamas, it seems like they comprise 10% of the whole population. Its consuming a large amount of state assistance feeding and clothing tens of thousands of troublemakers who constantly do things that threaten the nation, not to mention the increasing costs of stability maintenance. The country should consider cutting support for Buddhism in the Tibetan region, so that it doesn’t become a huge financial burden on the state. (藏区的喇嘛确实太多了，几乎占了总人口的十分之一强，养了几十万闲人还不停做出危害国家的事，也无形增加了维稳开支，更是消耗掉了大量的国家援助，国家应当考虑缩减对藏区佛教的支出，不能成为巨额财政负担。)
If its really like that, then go ahead and die. (真是那样，那就去死吧。)
Buddhism really has problems: Its not productive and doesn’t get handed down from generation to generation. They meditate all day long, and need so many others to take care of them. How is society supposed to progress when all the means of production are used to feed and clothe the monks? (佛教的确有问题一不生产；二不传宗接代。天天念经，还要人那么多人供养。都把生产资料供养僧侣了，社会还怎么发展？)
Is that old fart still alive? (这老癞子还活着？)
Kill all political monks. (打死政治和尚.)
Those who want to go to heaven – let them go! (愿意上西天尽管放他们去嘛！)
Let more Dalai Lama supporters burn themselves to death. (多自焚几个达赖的支持者吧)
A new report from Human Rights Watch looks at how increased spending on security in the Aba region may in fact have contributed to the recent outburst of protests and increased tensions between Han Chinese and Tibetans:
Human Rights Watch has documented a dramatic increase in security expenditure by the Chinese government in the Aba region since 2002, although there were no reported incidents of significant unrest until 2008. These findings suggest that the increase in government spending on security has contributed to provocative policing techniques such as monastery blockades and the mass detentions of monks that have repeatedly contributed to local discontent and unrest.
The increased security measures appear to have been a major factor in the escalation of tensions that have led to several protests in which monks tried to set themselves on fire to bring attention to the situation in Aba. In the October 7 incident, Choepel and Khaying, two young Tibetans who had been monks at Kirti monastery (“Ge Erde” in Chinese), set fire to themselves.
The monastery has been the site of six self-immolations this year, as well as larger nonviolent protests by monks and lay people, many of whom were subsequently detained