Dalai Lama Seeks Probe

Tibet's spiritual leader calls on China to investigate the true causes of self-immolation protests.
2013-01-07
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The Dalai Lama (folded hands) with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (L) at a congregation at Buddha Memorial Park in Patna, India, Jan. 4, 2013.
The Times of India/AFP

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has called again for Beijing to conduct a “thorough investigation” into the causes of Tibetan self-immolation protests, at the same time dismissing official Chinese accusations of complicity in the burnings.

Charges that he has incited the fiery protests from afar are an “indication of desperation” on the part of China’s leaders and are promoted to the Chinese by a policy of “censorship” and “distorted information,” the exiled leader told India’s NDTV news channel in a talk show on Sunday.

“They really find it difficult to explain [these events] to the outside world, and also they put a lot of restriction about this information to their own people,” the Dalai Lama said.

“The time has come [for them to conduct] a thorough investigation” into the protests’ causes, he said.

Ninety-five Tibetans so far have set themselves ablaze to highlight opposition to Chinese rule and call for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The wave of fiery protests began in February 2009, the most recent being a 17-year-old Tibetan girl who burned herself to death on Dec. 9 in a Tibetan-populated area of China’s Qinghai province.

Outrage

The bulk of the self-immolations occurred in 2012, when Tibetans also took to the streets to express outrage over the erosion of their rights and the disappearance of hundreds of dissident monks from monasteries, especially from the Kirti monastery in Ngaba province, the epicenter of the burnings.

Rights groups and foreign governments have deplored the burnings and have called on China to address the grievances of Tibetans living under Chinese rule.

Speaking for the United States, Under Secretary of State and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero on Dec. 11 expressed sadness and concern at “the increasing frequency of self-immolations by Tibetans.”

“Chinese authorities have responded to these tragic incidents with measures that tighten already strict controls on the freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association of Tibetans,” Otero said.

Chinese policies in Tibetan areas have only “exacerbated tensions,” Otero said.

'Nothing to offer'

Asked by NDTV if he would be willing to appeal to Tibetans not to self-immolate in protest, the Dalai Lama replied that Tibetan exile leaders “right from the beginning” have never encouraged the burnings.

“[But] I must have something to offer [the Tibetan people],” he said, adding, “I have nothing.”

“I feel very sorry and can do prayer. Otherwise I can do nothing.”

Two to three generations of Tibetans living under Chinese occupation have “really suffered a lot,” the Dalai Lama said.

Writing in The New York Times on Dec. 12, Beijing-based Chinese human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong said that he had traveled to Sichuan province’s Ngaba prefecture to speak with the parents of an 18-year-old Tibetan man named Nangdrol, who burned himself to death on Feb. 19.

He was unable to meet with family members, but gave a small amount of money to a Tibetan woman to give to them, “letting them know that a Han Chinese man had come to pay his respects.”

“I am sorry we Han Chinese have been silent as Nangdrol and his fellow Tibetans are dying for freedom,” Xu said.

“We are victims ourselves,” he said.

Reported by Richard Finney.