Fiery Debate Over Self-Immolations

The Tibetan government-in-exile slams the Chinese government over 'repression' in Tibetan areas.

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Lobsang Sangay (L) with the Dalai Lama after being sworn in as prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, Aug. 8, 2011.

China hit out Tuesday at the Dalai Lama for not denouncing a string of self-immolations by Tibetan monks, drawing an immediate rebuke from the Tibetan government-in-exile which said Beijing's human rights abuses sparked the protests.

Beijing accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual-leader-in-exile in India, of violating Buddhist teachings by not condemning the self-immolations by seven young Tibetan monks so far this year.

Four of the monks—who set themselves alight to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan areas and a Chinese siege on a key monastery—had succumbed to their burns.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said members of the "Dalai clique" not only failed to condemn the incidents, but publicized them to inspire further such acts.

"They publicly played it up, spread rumors and incited more people to follow suit," Liu told reporters at a daily news briefing, according to the Associated Press.

"That runs against human conscience and morality but also Buddhist doctrine," he said.


But the Tibetan government-in-exile in India's Dharamsala hill town slammed Beijing for the remarks, saying it should first put an end to its "repression" in Tibet.

The exile government, known as the Central Tibetan Administration, also accused Chinese security personnel of violating basic human rights by assaulting monks who self-immolated.  

"The Central Tibetan Administration condemns the Chinese authorities' response to the current events. Rather than engage in a dialogue with the Tibetan people to address their grievances, the Chinese authorities have reportedly assaulted the individuals who have self-immolated and taken them into police custody," a statement said.

"China is in clear violation of its own laws and international norms with regard to basic human rights."

It asked the Chinese government to immediately release those who survived self-immolation and asked that they be "treated with dignity."

It also appealed to the international community to press the Chinese government to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully through dialogue.

The Central Tibetan Administration is being led by Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-educated lawyer, who was elected prime minister earlier this year after the Dalai Lama relinquished his political role as head of the government-in-exile, ending a 369-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas holding both spiritual and political authority.

Nearly all the monks who self-immolated so far this year came from the Kirti monastery in the Ngaba (Aba, in Chinese) area in China's southwestern Sichuan province. The monastery has seen a huge security crackdown in recent months, with hundreds of monks taken away by Chinese security forces.

Monastery a 'virtual prison'

The exiled head of Kirti monastery said he was told that the monastery has become a virtual prison and the situation has become "desperate" for Tibetans, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a rights group.

Kirti Rinpoche, who is based in the Kirti's sister monastery in Dharamsala, said: "With the Chinese government making arbitrary arrests and passing unimaginably harsh sentences on the basis of false representations and allegations, for month after month [Kirti] monastery has been turned into a virtual prison."

He said that all the monks were "subjected day and night to deprivation of all freedoms."

"Internally, the monastery's teaching program is not allowed to function, and externally, Tibetan religion and culture is under such unthinkable repression that it has reached a point of desperation where people would choose to die rather than go on living."

Meanwhile, a former monk at the Kirti monastery who was among the latest to set himself on fire died on Tuesday.

Chinese authorities cremated Choephel, 19, and handed over the ashes to his parents much to their surprise, a Tibetan resident of Ngaba told RFA. The residents living around his area were also asked not to attend any funeral rites.

"When their son was alive, the parents were not allowed to see him [at the hospital]."

"After waiting for about two to three days, the Aba county authorities appeared suddenly on Tuesday and handed over the ashes of their son who passed away on the same day," the resident said.

The other monk who joined Choephel in the self-immolation protest on Friday had died a day later and his family was also deprived of seeing the body and only given his ashes after cremation.

Condolences prohibited

"The authorities assigned police to each house in the area and warned the residents of Ngaba not to visit Choephel's parents for condolences," the Ngaba resident said.

"The monks in Kirti were also warned not conduct any rituals to mourn or pray, but the monks defied the warning and conducted a special prayer in an area close to the monastery."

Kanyag Tsering, a monk at the Kirti sister monastery in Dharamsala, said residents also lit butter lamps and made offerings to mark the deaths.

They wanted "to show solidarity to those Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet and who are still suffering under the harsh Chinese rule."

The resident who spoke to RFA said Ngaba town "wears a look of sadness with all the shops and restaurants closed and with residents living in fear."

"I may disappear tomorrow but I cannot hide this in my heart and have to share. There is no freedom and peace in this area. We are all frustrated and desperate.”

Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Righden Dolma. Written in English with additional reporting by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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Oct 12, 2011 08:33 AM

The headline in this story is in very poor taste.

Oct 12, 2011 03:34 AM

The CCP's blend of European Leninist single-party authoritarianism and China's old imperial authoritarian ultra-centralism makes for a very cruel and ruthless hybrid authoritarian police state.