Two More Self-Immolations

The number of Tibetans burning themselves in protest against Chinese rule has risen to 89.
2012-11-29
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Tibetan in India unveil a banner with images of those who self-immolated during a protest rally in Siliguri city, Nov. 28, 2012.
AFP

Two more Tibetans have burned themselves to death in protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas, sources said Thursday as a U.S.-based human rights group said the increasing burning protests highlight a failure of the Chinese authorities to address Tibetan grievances.

The latest burnings by two men in Gansu province brings the self-immolation toll to 89 so far, with 27 occurring this month alone.

Tsering Tashi, 31, set himself ablaze near a local government office in Luchu (in Chinese, Luqu) county on Thursday while Bendey Khar, 21, died after torching himself in Tsoe (Hezuo) county on Wednesday, Tibetan exile sources with contacts in the region said.

Both the counties are in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Tsering Tashi, a father of two young daughters—seven and three years old—self-immolated "in protest against the Chinese policy in Tibet and for Tibetan political freedom," an exile Tibetan with contacts in the county told RFA's Tibetan service.

Bendey Khar, 21, "called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, the release of all Tibetan political prisoners, freedom of religion and language, as well as the protection of Tibet’s fragile environment," according to the Central Tibetan Administration, the official name of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in India's Dharamsala hill town, where Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is living.

Sources said security has been tightened in the two areas where the self-immolations occurred.

Most of the self-immolation protests since February 2009 have been aimed at highlighting opposition to Chinese rule and seeking the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after a failed national revolt against Chinese occupation in 1959.

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Failure

The rise in the burning protests highlights the failure of Chinese authorities to address Tibetan grievances, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Thursday.

It said that Beijing's increasingly pervasive and punitive security measures in response to the protests have "exacerbated the situation" in Tibetan areas of China.  

“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 group said Beijing had authorized increasingly aggressive moves against both individual Tibetans and Tibetan communities where the self-immolations had taken place.

Since late October, officials have responded to the burning protests by punishing the families and communities of protestors, characterizing immolations as criminal offenses, arresting those associated with the self-immolators, and deploying paramilitary forces and restricting communications and travel in areas where the protests have occurred.

Human Rights Watch asked governments committed to promoting human rights to jointly urge the Chinese government to address Tibetan grievances. It suggested that they form a contact group or issue a joint statement on longstanding human rights problems in Tibet.

“The central government should devote as much energy to addressing the deep-rooted problems facing Tibetans as it is on punishing the families of those who have taken the drastic step of protesting by self-immolating,” Adams said.

“Coordinated, international expressions of concern are essential to get Beijing to substantively address the issues being raised by Tibetans.”

Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.