Wangchen Kyi,a 17-year-old girl in Tongren (Rebkong), Qinghai, set herself on fire today in the latest self-immolation. VOA reports:
Sources tell VOA that Wangchen shouted slogans calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama and long life of Tibet.
More than 3,000 Tibetans and monks are reported to have gathered at the site of the self-immolation protest to recite prayers.
Sources say two trucks of Chinese armed police arrived and forcibly dispersed the gathered crowd and asked them to return to their homes. Wanchen Kyi’s body was cremated around midnight. She is survived by her father Sonam Tsering and mother Sermo, and two other siblings.
Reuters looks at how the surge of self-immolations – at least 95 since 2009 – has succeeded and failed to effect change:
Self-immolations have historically only been effective in achieving political concessions when carried out under weak governments, but they have increased solidarity within parts of the Tibetan community, [Columbia University Tibet scholar Robert] Barnett said.
“It hasn’t been effective in getting any change in policy, but it has been effective in mobilizing sentiment within the Tibetan community inside Tibet,” he said.
The long lines of people going to pay respects and donate money to the families of people who have immolated are evidence of this, Barnett said. China’s new regulations aim to suppress this practice.
But Barnett said Tibetans, including the exiled government in India, are playing the “politics of sympathy”, a tactic that makes powerful symbolic statements, but does little to articulate coherent and urgent policy demands.
As part of a government crackdown on those found to be somehow involved with the self-immolations, the official media announced the arrest of a monk and his nephew for allegedly “encouraging” self-immolations. From Xinhua:
Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk at the Kirti Monastery in Aba County, Sichuan, has goaded eight people to set themselves on fire, three of whom died, since 2009, said a police statement.
He acted on the instructions of the Dalai Lama and his followers, according to his confession and police investigation.
After a Kirti Monastery monk named Tapey self-immolated in February 2009, Lorang Konchok was contacted by some key figures with the media liaison team — a “Tibet independence” organization of the Dalai Lama group, and he continuously sent the latter information about incidents of self-immolation.
At the requests of the media liaison team, Lorang Konchok took advantage of his position and influence in the monastery and often encouraged others to self-immolate, telling local monks and followers that self-immolation was not against Buddhist doctrines and those who did it were “heroes.”
The government has previously announced that anyone found to have “incited” self-immolations would be charged with murder. The Tibetan government-in-exile has denied any involvement and said these “confessions” were forced. From BBC:
The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the Indian town of Dharmsala, denied accusations of involvement by its representatives or the Dalai Lama.
“We believe [the suspects] have been forced to make these confessions,” spokesman Lobsang Choedak said.
“We would welcome the Chinese government investigating whether we are instigating these immolations.”
Tibetan writer and blogger Woeser expressed concerns that such “confessions” would become more common as part of a government campaign. From Twitter:
TT @degewa official doc shows CPC may relaunch across Tibetan regions a political movement to make Tibetans “confess”, … (1/2)
— kRiZcPEc (@kRiZcPEc) December 10, 2012
TT @degewa …so that the “culprits” could be found. This would only lead to more resistance. (2/2)
— kRiZcPEc (@kRiZcPEc) December 10, 2012
Woeser also posted a number of photos showing an overwhelming security presence outside Jokhang Temple during yesterday’s prayers on Gaden Ngamchoe, a festival of light, in Lhasa, including “anti-self-immolation” officers in asbestos suits.
Read more about self-immolations by Tibetans via CDT.