Tibet Self-Immolations: Why People Set Themselves On Fire To Protest China
Asked whether the Chinese government has failed to respond to the concerns of Tibetans in Rebkong, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei dismissed the immolations as few in number, and blamed them entirely on the Tibetans' exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
"The few immolations that happened in the Tibetan areas are masterminded by the Dalai group. They are using this news at the expense of human lives," Hong said. "It goes against the country's law and against the Buddhist education, morality and consciousness. Such despicable acts by the Dalai Lama group should be severely condemned by all. I'll tell you that the recent development of the society and economy in Tibet has made people enjoy a happy life."
Told of the government's response, Tenzin sighs in frustration. "It's always the same. They just don't listen to the people."
Though they maintain a firm line when speaking publicly, Barnett says there is considerable debate within the Chinese government on how to curb the growing unrest in Tibetan regions.
"We know think-tanks have been set up by certain Chinese leaders in the new leadership to look at new possibilities," he says. He adds, however, that it remains a complete mystery "what they have decided or what ideas they came up with."
The debate is clearly gathering steam at the top levels. Communist Party chief Wang Dongming of Sichuan Province said in a recent speech the crackdown on Tibetan areas should be intensified, but government critics argue that might only spur more immolations.
Chinese state media reported in the last several days that anyone found guilty of aiding or inciting immolations will be charged with murder. Putting the law quickly into practice, state media reported Sunday that a monk and his nephew in Sichuan province had been arrested and accused instigating the self-immolations of eight Tibetans on the instructions of the Dalai Lama and his followers. The report did not say what evidence police had of the Dalai Lama's involvement, and his government in exile denied any involvement.
Tenzin says he wants freedom of speech and religion, the rule of law, and for the Dalai Lama to come back.
"If we are citizens of China, then treat us like Chinese citizens," he says. "We are not asking for money. What we ask for is inside, and taking that away -- our spiritual essence -- is the same as killing us."
Note: December 10 is Human Rights Day across the world, honoring the United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights