A well-known Tibetan writer is leading a call for an end to self-immolations by Tibetans, saying the burnings have already sent a clear message to Beijing that they are against Chinese rule.
Woeser, who is effectively under house arrest in Beijing, said in an open letter to Tibetans posted on her blog that Tibetans should be "staying alive to struggle and push forward" their objective of winning greater freedom.
"Expressed through these self-immolations is the will of Tibetans," the letter said, referring to the 26 self-immolations since February 2009 in protest against Beijing's rule in Tibetan-populated areas and calling for the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Woeser, who has written critically of the Chinese government’s policies in Tibet, said that the self-immolations by mostly young Tibetans "make one feel grief-stricken," and that ending the trend "deserves to be treated as a matter of utmost urgency."
Chinese authorities last week prevented Woeser from receiving a Dutch cultural award and placed her under virtual house arrest for one month.
"Twenty-six cases make it clear what Tibetans have wanted to articulate," said the joint letter by Woeser and a senior Tibetan religious figure, Arjia Rinpoche, now living in exile in the United States, and Tibet's Amdo-based poet Gade Tsering.
"Yet, articulation of one’s will cannot be an ultimate goal. The will has to be put into practice, transforming into reality," they said in the letter titled "Appeal to Tibetans To Cease Self-Immolation: Cherish Your Life in a Time of Oppression."
"Only by staying alive can the will become a reality. As long as self-immolation continues, every life would become another irredeemable loss."
The trio stressed that Tibetans must cherish life and live with resilience.
"Regardless of the magnitude of oppression, our life is important, and we have to cherish it … [The] chances to change our reality depend on us staying alive to struggle and push forward."
“Therefore, we plead for an immediate stop of self-immolation,” they said in the letter, which was also posted on Facebook and Twitter and various blogs on which sympathetic readers were invited to add their names in support.
They said that self-immolation in itself cannot change Tibetan reality.
"[The] chances to change our reality depend on us staying alive to struggle and to push forward; staying alive allows us to gather the strength as drops of water to form a great ocean. It depends on thousands and more living Tibetans to pass on our nation's spirit and blood!"
The writers appealed to Tibet's monks, elderly, intellectuals, officials, and people "to protect your fellow devotees, believers, fellow villagers, and families."
"Please do prevent the reoccurrence of self-immolation."
Following the self-immolations, Chinese authorities have tightened security in Tibetan-populated provinces as well as the Tibet Autonomous Region ahead of what Tibetans call "Uprising Day" on March 10, the sensitive anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in 1959 and of deadly riots in 2008.
Chinese authorities have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the burnings which, they say, run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Buddhist leader has made clear he does not encourage the self-immolations, in turn blaming China's "ruthless and illogical" policy towards Tibet for the protests, which show little sign of subsiding.
He called on the Chinese government to change its "repressive" policies in Tibet, citing the crackdown on monasteries and policies curtailing use of the Tibetan language.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Written in English by Richard Finney.