Over the past five years, Tibetans in the Tibetan regions of China and Delhi, India have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Tibetans struggle to maintain their religious beliefs and culture in a country where their spiritual leader is labelled a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by the central authorities. The news of self-immolations is one of the few clues the outside world has to the situation in Tibet and Tibetan regions of Sichuan.
Between 2012 and 2013, eight people self-immolated in Zoigê (Dzoege) County, Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan. Many of them were monks, and all but one were 24 or younger. Seven are confirmed dead; the whereabouts of Sonam Dhargye, who was 17 when he set himself on fire, are unknown. 25-year-old Lobsang Dorje, a former monk, self-immolated in Ngaba on February 13.
Tibetan blogger and activist Woeser has tweeted a photo of new regulations imposed in Zoigê County which punish not only self-immolators, but also their next-of-kin, their monastic communities, and the temples and towns where they set themselves alight:
Every single one of the 16 “Notice of Provisional Anti-Self-Immolation Regulations” is absurd and terrifying. “Villages (districts) or temples where a self-immolation occurs must make a security deposit of 10,000-500,000 yuan into an anti-self-immolation fund”; “The immediate family of self-immolators will be denied permission to leave the country (border) or travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region for three years”…
A full translation of the notice follows:
Zoigê County People’s Government
Notice of Provisional Anti-Self-Immolation Regulations
To all cadres and the masses:
In this pivotal period for the county’s rapid economic and social development and its long-term stability, the vast majority of the general populace, temples, and monks have resolutely upheld the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the socialist system, and the Party’s system of regional ethnic autonomy. This has brought positive gains in maintaining ethnic harmony and social stability throughout the county. However, an extremely small number of criminals and individuals with ulterior motives purposefully act to undermine the overall stability and unity of society in order to achieve their nefarious hidden agendas through a series of self-immolations. These acts have an extremely detrimental influence and seriously disturb the order of everyday life and the people’s production capacity, while also seriously hindering the healthy development of the county’s economy and society. In order to combat these crimes, mete out the necessary punishment and reward, effectively maintain a harmonious and stable social environment, and safeguard the fundamental interests of the masses, and after due research and decision-making, the county government hereby makes the following special provisions:
1. All immediate family of an individual who self-immolates (including parents, spouse, children, and siblings) will no longer be eligible to become a national civil servant, apply for unemployment, become workers or service personnel, or to serve in the military.
2. All immediate family of an individual who self-immolates will no longer be eligible to take part in elections or serve as a representative in any level of people’s congresses [e.g. provincial and national], a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee member, or a village (district) cadre.
3. Civil servants working in national-level government offices, professionals, workers, and service personnel should consciously strengthen the education of their immediate family; if any one of an individual’s relatives self-immolates, the individual will be strictly dealt with in accordance with regulation.
4. Any individual who commits or is actively involved in a self-immolation will lose all household (residential) benefits for three years and social benefits for one year.
5. Any national investment project being undertaken in a village (district) or temple where a self-immolator is located will be stopped or suspended. All investment and civil society capital projects in the village (district) will be halted.
6. The home (residence) of anyone who commits or is actively involved in a self-immolation will be labeled an untrustworthy household, and the village (district) or temple where the self-immolation occured will be labeled an untrustworthy village (district) or temple, and will be unable to receive loans for three years. Any financial institution that has already granted a loan [to a household, village or temple labeled untrustworthy] will only accept payments and will not disburse further funds.
7. Villages (districts) or temples where a self-immolation occurs must make a security deposit of 10,000-500,000 yuan into an anti-self-immolation fund. If no other self-immolations occur within two years, the money will be refunded; if another self-immolation occurs, the money will be placed into the national treasury, and another deposit will be required.
8. Self-immolations will be linked to the financial support granted to village group (district) cadres, members of the democratic temple management committee, and responsible religious leaders; these people will also not be eligible for excellence awards in that year.
9. Land use rights for farmland and pastures held by self-immolators will be revoked; operating rights for farmland and pastures in the self-immolator’s village (district) will be frozen.
10. For all immediate relatives of an individual who commits self-immolation and the households of active participants, rights to real estate and land will be confirmed, but will not receive any certification; they will not be granted permission to conduct any business activities for three years.
11. The immediate family of self-immolators will be denied permission to leave the country (border) or travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region for three years.
12. Wherever a self-immolation occurs, a “serious measure” will be taken; matters will be handled with the strictest comprehensive administrative enforcement possible.
13. In villages (districts) and temples where self-immolations occur, the township or temple will conduct a legal study session for villagers (residents), monks and nuns, and responsible religious teachers. Immediate family members of a self-immolator and others actively involved who can be implicated by only minor evidence or whose actions do not constitute a criminal offense and have not received legal punishment will be required to participate in legal education classes at a separate locality of 15 or more days in length.
14. Monks and nuns at temples where self-immolations have occurred will be strictly restricted from participating in impromptu and large-scale, cross-regional Buddhist religious events.
15. The finances of temples associated with a self-immolation will be thoroughly examined in accordance with the law. These temples will be ordered to halt all business activities. The temple’s revenue, donations received, and expenditures will be reported to the temple management committee (office) and will be periodically made public to all monks, nuns, and the religious masses.
16. Individuals who provide leads and other information regarding acts of self-immolation will, once their tips are verified, receive an award of 2,000-500,000 yuan, and the identity of the informant will be kept strictly confidential.
The above regulations are effective immediately upon publication, and take precedent over any other provisions inconsistent with the above.
Translation by Little Bluegill.