Two Self-Immolations as U.S., China Trade Accusations

Two more Tibetans died after setting themselves on fire today during gatherings to mark Gaden Ngamchoe, a Buddhist day of prayer, bringing the total number of self-immolations since 2009 to 94. From Dharamsala-based Phayul:

Pema Dorjee, 23, set himself on fire in the Luchu region of eastern Tibet at around 4:30 pm (local time). A group of exiled Tibetans from the region told Phayul that he succumbed to his injuries at the protest site.

“Martyr Pema Dorjee set himself on fire in front of the main assembly hall of the Shitsang Monastery in Luchu,” the group said. “A large number of Tibetans who were at the Monastery to offer prayers witnessed the self-immolation protest.”

And another Phayul article describes the second self-immolation:

The exile base of the Kirti Monastery in Dharamshala, in a release, said that Kunchok Phelgye set himself on fire in front of the main assembly hall of the Taktsang Lhamo Kirti Monastery at around 5:20 pm (local time).

“Kunchok Phelgye was enveloped in flames and his hands were joined in prayers as he raised slogans for the long life and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche, the exiled head of Kirti Monastery,” the release said citing sources in the region. “He also raised slogans calling for the return and reunification of Tibetans.”

Kunchok Phelgye succumbed to his injuries at the site of his protest.

Monks of the Monastery surrounded Kunchok Phelgye’s burning body and began to recite the prayer, “Losang Gyalwa Kungi Nyingje Ter…” (usually recited in Kirti Rinpoche’s honour). Later, Kunchok Phelgye’s body was carried to his quarters in the Monastery where hundreds of monks and local Tibetans continue to visit to offer their last respects and prayers.

See also a report from Radio Free Asia.

Last week, the U.S. State Department issued a statement urging the Chinese government to resolve Tibetan grievances in order to stem the self-immolations. From AFP:

The United States “is deeply concerned and saddened by the continuing violence” in Tibet, the State Department said late Wednesday.

Official Chinese rhetoric “that denigrates the Tibetan language, the Dalai Lama, and those who have self-immolated has further exacerbated tensions,” read the statement, signed by Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero.

[...]

Top US officials “have directly raised the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with their Chinese government counterparts,” Otero wrote.

Washington calls on Beijing “to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution. We hope that the tragic acts of self-immolation end.”

Today, the Chinese government responded by telling the U.S. to stay out of China’s internal affairs:

China’s foreign ministry spokesman on Friday reacted angrily to the comments, calling them “interference in China’s internal affairs”.

“The relevant statement by the US official did not criticise the Tibetan splittist activity of the Dalai Lama group and Tibet independence forces, but instead criticises and blames the Chinese government policies,” Hong Lei said.

“The Chinese side has expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition as well as stern representations with the US side.”

Washington also urged Beijing to talk with the Dalai Lama “without preconditions” and to allow journalists, diplomats “and other observers unrestricted access to China’s Tibetan areas”.

But Hong reiterated Beijing’s long-held position that the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, was inciting the burnings as a means of realising Tibetan independence, but did not offer any proof of such actions.

Update: Tibetan writer Woeser has uploaded photos of a major security presence around Jokhang Temple in Lhasa as Tibetans gathered to mark Gaden Ngamchoe. Some police officers are shown wearing asbestos suits, in an apparent effort to prevent self-immolations.

Read more about self-immolations by Tibetans via CDT.

December 8, 2012 8:00 PM
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