Another self-immolation by a Tibetan protesting against Beijing’s policies in the region today brought the total to 90 since 2009. The 29-year-old man who set himself on fire today survived and was taken away by police, raising concerns that protests may break out in the region. Dharamsala-based Phayul reports:
In reports just in, a Tibetan man today set himself on fire in Shagdom region on Ngaba, eastern Tibet in an apparent protest against China’s occupation of Tibet.
The Tibetan man has been identified as Kunchok Kyab, 29, from Akyi region of Zoegey in Ngaba.
According to the exile base of Kirti Monastery in Dharamshala, the situation in the region, at the time of filing this report, is being described as ‘very tense’ with fears over eruption of major protests in the region.
“At around 9 am (local time) Kunchok Kyab set himself on fire near a gas station in the Shagdom region of Ngaba,” Kirti Monastery said in a release. “Shortly afterwards, Chinese security personnel arrived at the site and bundled him away after dousing the fire.”
In response to the recent surge in self-immolations, Human Rights Watch has issued a statement urging the central Chinese government to address Tibetans’ grievances (issued before today’s self-immolation):
A total of 89 Tibetans have self-immolated since February 2009, almost all of whom shouted slogans or left statements calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, Tibetan freedom, relaxation of religious and cultural policy, and related issues. In 2012, 76 Tibetans self-immolated, including 27 in November. Of the 89, 74 died, 7 reportedly survived, and the condition of 6 is unknown.
“Self-immolation is an act of complete desperation to bring attention to the plight of Tibetans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of stepping up repression and driving people to believe there is no hope of change, Beijing needs to take steps to respond to Tibetans’ grievances.”
The central government has authorized increasingly aggressive moves against both individual Tibetans and Tibetan communities where immolations have taken place, Human Rights Watch said. Since late October, officials have responded to immolations by punishing the families and communities of protestors, characterizing immolations as criminal offenses, arresting those associated with immolators, and by deploying paramilitary forces and restricting communications and travel in areas where immolations have occurred.
Human Rights Watch also translated a notice broadcast on television in Tibetan giving orders for the treatment of families of self-immolators:
In the period of the 18th Party congress, six incidents of instability have occurred one after the other in the Rebkong [Ch.: Tongren] area of the prefecture. This has caused serious damage to harmony and stability in the whole prefecture and been a negative influence on the province and nation. The incidents are clearly a case of the Dalai group, while wearing the cloak of religion, using self-immolation to encourage social grievance and incite unrest among students to create social disturbance in an attempt to split the nation. At this time when upper, lower and middle [level officials] throughout the prefecture are giving all their strength to maintaining social stability, the masses in some areas, both monks and laypeople, are putting about random and nonsensical talk and being taken in by the incitements of the Dalai group through ignorance, believing the self-immolators to be heroes and even going to greet their family members and make voluntary donations to them. They have made a problematic scene and upset normal social order. With firm determination, those responsible for implementing the policies of the provincial Party committee, and those responsible for forcefully maintaining the appearance of social stability throughout the prefecture, must strictly smash the small number of criminals who despicably manipulate people who do not understand the real situation and incite them to self-immolate and create social grievances, must establish good order and smash disorder, in order to maintain general harmony and stability in the prefecture.
Specific orders include:
“[…] Cancel benefits received by the households of self-immolators under public benefit policies; […] swiftly and clearly establish whether there were instances of greeting and making contributions to family members of self-immolators among the masses in their locality. […] Public security agencies must swiftly take measures against those who do not listen to this advice and strictly smash them.”
Read more about recent self-immolations by Tibetans, via CDT.