Two More Tibetans Self-Immolate

Two more self-immolations occurred today in Aba countya hotbed for Tibetan protests in northwestern Sichuan province. The two young Tibetans, both laity, are the latest in a long string of self-immolators in Aba over the past year, the largest counts of which total 25 in the locale alone (of 35 in greater ethnic Tibetan regions of China). This news come just days after the International Campaign for Tibet released a graphic video of the self-immolation in Aba that caused a violent skirmish with police back in January. Voice of America reports on the latest incident:

Two more Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest China’s crackdown on rising Tibetan dissent in China’s Sichuan province.

Sources with contacts in the region tell VOA the Tibetans, both in their 20s, set themselves ablaze near a monastery in the Sichuan provincial city known as Aba to Tibetans and Ngawa to ethnic Chinese. Both later died.

[…]Beijing has described the protests as barbaric and terrorist acts. But Western advocacy groups and many governments say the protests are a direct response to ethnic Chinese indifference to Tibetan religious practices and cultural norms.

China also accuses pro-Tibetan exile groups of inciting separatism, and routinely refers to the Dalai Lama as a “splittist” (separatist).

As the recurring acts of self-immolation fuel an ongoing debate, the Dalai Lama, who retired from political power last year, has been reluctant to offer his input, and some Tibetans are finding their faith in the spiritual leader shaken. BBC correspondent Sue Lloyd-Roberts spoke with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala about his reservations commenting on recent self-immolations:

“Now this is very, very sensitive political issue,” [the Dalai Lama] explains with due solemnity.

“If I get involved in that, then the retirement from political power is meaningless. Whatever I say the Chinese government they immediately manipulate.”

[…]”These [Chinese] leaders are very foolish, narrow minded, authoritarian sort of people,” he says.

[…]”They do not understand what is the real Tibetan feeling.”

He speaks with emphasis and anger. It is the most ungodlike behaviour I have ever witnessed from His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, in 20 years of interviewing him.

He is fed up and so are his followers. But for decades, it was considered almost blasphemy to criticise the Dalai Lama and his policies. Not any more.

“I question the current policy and position of His Holiness not to face reality and then forcing Tibetans to commit suicide,” says 60-year-old Lhasang Tsering, a former president of the influential Tibetan Youth Congress.

Karma Chophel, a former speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile, takes the warning further.

“Non-violence has not worked. Violence could now be the only option,” he says.

For an academic assessment of self-immolation and protest in Tibet, see Hot Spots: Self Immolation as Protest in Tibet, via CDT.

April 19, 2012 11:28 AM
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Categories: Human Rights, Politics