Netizen Voices: “Life Above Politics” in Tibet?

Janphel Yeshi set himself on fire and ran through the streets of New Delhi in March before Hu Jintao’s visit to India. His image appears on the cover of the latest edition of iSun Affairs.

Soon after announcing that “inciting” self-immolation would be prosecuted as murder, Chinese authorities arrested a monk and his nephew in Sichuan Province for “goading” people to set themselves alight. Global Times Chief Editor Hu Xijin condemned these “murderers,” and the Dalai Lama, on Weibo:

HuXijin: Sichuan has cracked the case of Tibetan lamas inciting self-immolation. Instigated by the Dalai clique, two culprits have incited and goaded eight people to self-immolate since 2009, resulting in three deaths. This truly is an unforgivable evil. How vicious does one have to be to use religious ecstasy to engineer self-immolations, and thus exert political pressure? I say it’s right to classify this as intentional homicide. Life is above politics–it is above all else.


Dazed netizens complained that Hu’s comments came out of nowhere–before last week, the Chinese press had been silent on the violence in Tibet. Many couldn’t believe that people could be simply “incited” to set themselves on fire. They also called Hu’s bluff on his proclamation that “life is above politics,” since he tows the Party line for a state-run newspaper. Some of the comments:

zhaochu1962: Almost none of these cases of self-immolation were allowed to be reported. When people go from ignorance to awareness, of course they will suspect this kind of case-cracking. Burning yourself to death because you were goaded–sounds like a fantasy story. Suicide is not a crime. The evolution of the situation in Tibet to today’s tragic state requires consideration of policy, not dubious victories to anesthetize the public. If we are to maintain unity [of the country], we must face this issue head-on.

赵楚: 当这些自焚案件几乎不让报道,人们也从无知晓时,这种破案必定会令人生疑。因为教唆就会去自焚,这样的话听来彷佛天方夜谭。自杀不是一种罪行,藏区局势演化到今日可悲的地步要做政策的反思,不要用这些可疑的胜利消息来麻醉公众,要维护统一必须正视问题。

AuthorTianYou-: Any mishap among the Tibetans is the one of the Dalai Lama’s conspiracies, and any mishap among the Xinjiang people [Uyghurs] is one of Rebiya Kadeer’s tricks.


Iamyuqianqiansmother: If you’re going to write a fiction, at least provide some decent details. What’s truly vicious is framing people groundlessly like this. 96 people have self-immolated, but there’s not one word about it in domestically. The U.S. Congress has already stated it is watching the situation closely, so you all, @HuXijin, go and frame the Dalai Lama. You’re playing like gangsters.

我是遇谦谦她妈:编段子也该编出点像样的细节,这种莫须有的栽赃才是真恶毒。已经96人自焚了,国内毫无报道,美国国会已经表示严重关注,所以你们 @胡锡进 就栽赃给达赖。真是耍流氓。

smallhateforbooks: In this instance, Editor Hu says life is above politics, but in every other case he’ll say politics is above life.


freeCrow: What a load of crap. Why would someone self-immolate just because they were “goaded”?


yangdingzhi: I’m in favor of Chief Hu self-immolating. I’ll donate 20 for funeral arrangements. //@TujiaWildman: I’d like to goad Chief Hu to self-immolate, then turn myself in. Is that doable?

澎湃在这:支持胡总自焚,我捐20善后 //@土家野夫: 我想唆使胡总自焚并领罪。可能乎?

shileimemeda: When I go to Tibet, it’s crawling with armed police and real guns. There are military checkpoints all over. So-called “national unity,” heh heh. If it was real unity, you would respect their gods. Some Party would mold itself into the saviors of the people, but in reality manufactured so many cases of murder. Economic development is gained in exchange for the resources of countless generations and the happiness of the people. I think this type of united celebration comes only from goading.


jiaxuTalktomyself: Oh Hu Xijin, you are a great, glorious, and correct, fair and selfless Communist Party member! You devote everything to the world’s most worthy causes! You ought to give your life for such lofty goals. If you go die today, it will be a powerful testament to the crimes of the old monks! This testament ought only come from you, and can only come from you! Now go die!!!–Did my goading work?


Anthony: Funny, I’d never heard of this case, and all of the sudden it’s been solved… Chief Hu, could you please post a little shout-out to freedom of the press and abolishing media censorship?


CitizenMarshalSYuan: Life is above politics? (Human rights are above sovereign rights?) God, this is a blatant declaration of leaving the Party! Editor Hu moves us once again.

公民MarshalSYuan: 生命高於政治?(人權高於主權?)天哪,這是赤裸裸的退黨宣言啊!胡編又讓人感動了一回

LajiesSky: Who will believe you? You didn’t say a word when these things were happening. I guess the pressure [of the situation] has forced you to make up something.


Read more about Tibetan self-immolations from CDT.

Via CDT Chinese.

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Note: This figure, which @yuqianqian first cited on December 3, includes an unconfirmed case. The International Campaign for Tibet and the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy both count 95 victims of self-immolation as of December 13, 2012. The Hong Kong magazine iSun Affairs lists 96 victims in its latest edition, but gives 97 on its website [zh]. Back.