CCTV Blames ‘Dalai Clique’ for Self-Immolations

As the exiled prime minister of Tibet has been engaging in a series of interviews with world media outlets and as Li Keqiang prepares for his first visit to India as Chinese Premier, CCTV aired a special feature blaming the Tibetan government-in-exile for the ongoing wave of protest by self-immolation in Tibetan areas of China. The Global Times summarizes the 25-minute CCTV report:

A documentary by State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) has revealed how the Dalai Lama clique manipulated self-immolations in China’s Tibetan-inhabited areas.

The documentary, which was aired on Thursday evening, was created through in-depth research and interviews conducted by CCTV reporters in areas where the incidents took place.

In March, Banmajia, a 26-year-old villager, attempted to carry out a self-immolation in Seda county, Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, but was stopped by police.

Local police found a suicide note written by him together with dozens of photocopies of the note. Banmajia said he wrote the suicide note in accordance with the so-called Self-immolation Guide, which circulated on the Internet.

[…]CCTV said there is no doubt that the guide is irrefutable evidence of the Dalai clique’s manipulation of self-immolations.

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Back in February, CCTV aired a report blaming U.S.-government funded Voice of America for “fomenting” Tibetan self-immolations with their broadcasts. By citing Tibetan blogger Woeser and looking to the CCTV special report, The South China Morning Post shows how CCTV’s media campaign is an effort to gain leverage in global perception of the Tibet situation:

The half-hour news feature is part of recent efforts by Chinese state media to change the narrative of Chinese control over Tibet. It is the fifth such video aired over the last year, writes Beijing-based Tibetan activist Tsering Woeser in a tweet.

[…]The report also accuses foreign media of perpetuating the symbolic suicides. “By continuing to speculate about immolations, Radio Free Asia and other foreign media participate in their propagation in Tibetan areas,” it claims.

To back up its claims, it – somewhat bizarrely – quotes a German language lecturer at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

“It’s a problem of the Western media and it’s a problem of the interests of the exiled Tibetans who … it’s a fact, the more trouble there is in Tibet, the more money they get,” says Otto Kölbl.

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More on the contents of this newest CCTV report and its aspirations to reach a global audience from the BBC:

The documentary, which will also be released in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, is aimed at letting “the international community recognise the truth about self-immolation incidents”, CCTV says.

A transcript of the documentary outlines how “Dalai clique” members of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India allegedly posted “self-immolation instructions” on the internet to incite Tibetans in China to set themselves alight.

[…]”There is no doubt that this ‘self-immolation guidebook’ is irrefutable evidence on the Dalai clique planning and inciting Tibetan self-immolations,” the documentary asserts.

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The Dalai Lama himself has made efforts not to comment either for or against the practice of self-immolation, which has been used in Beijing’s campaign to emphasize the spiritual leader’s responsibility. A post from the Council on Foreign Relations “Asia Unbound” blog looks at the politics behind the Dalai Lama’s decision:

If the self-immolations have failed to galvanize international support, why hasn’t Dalai Lama used his moral authority to issue a public statement asking for Tibetans to stop the practice? It is widely believed that self-immolation cases would drop significantly if he makes such a move.  But Dalai Lama is facing a major dilemma over this issue. As a voice of peace and reason, he privately does not support self-immolation. Indeed, from the outset, he was said to be skeptical of how effective this approach would be.  But he has refrained from calling for an end of self-immolation. While he is still the unrivaled spiritual leader among Tibetans, his Middle Way Approach to resolve the Tibetan issue—which does not accept the status quo or political independence—through nonviolent means is increasingly challenged by the young generation, as represented by the Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest NGO in the exile community.  They are increasingly frustrated and many have been radicalized by the lack of breakthrough in the negotiation between Dalai Lama’s representative and the Chinese central government that began in 2002.  Against this backdrop, self-immolation has been viewed by some as an extreme form of collective frustration and anger among the Tibetans.  Unless Dalai Lama is able to offer a viable alternative, his call for ending the practice would likely alienate his supporters, even draw backlash from the radical wing of his own constituency.  It’s because of this that he has expressed respect for the courage and motives of the self-immolators, despite his general disapproval of their behavior.[…]

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