Self-immolation protests by Tibetans in China

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Map of Tibetan Self-Immolations, Updated 27 August 2012
Tapey, monk in Ngaba, Tibet (27 February 2009)

As of 5 June 2017 there have been 148 confirmed and two disputed[1] [2] self-immolations reported in Tibet since 27 February 2009, when Tapey, a young monk from Kirti Monastery, set himself on fire in the marketplace in Ngawa City, Ngawa County, Sichuan.[3] In 2011 a wave of self-immolations by Tibetans in Chinese-occupied Tibet, as well as in India and Nepal, occurred after the self-immolation of Phuntsog of 16 March 2011 in Ngawa County, Sichuan. Protests are ongoing.[4]

Summary[edit]

Most of the protesters have been monks and nuns, or ex-monks[5][6] Some of the protesters who set themselves on fire were teenagers.[7][8][9][10]

Most such incidents have taken place in China's Sichuan province, especially around the Kirti Monastery in Ngawa City, Ngawa County, Sichuan,[3] others in Gansu and Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region. Self-immolation protests by Tibetans also occurred in India[11] and Kathmandu, Nepal.[6]

According to Reuters the Dalai Lama said in March 2012 he does not encourage the protests, but he has praised the courage of those who had engaged in self-immolation[12] and blamed the self-immolations on "cultural genocide" by the Chinese.[7] Four months later the Dalai Lama made clear that he wishes to remain neutral regarding this topic and he explained why to The Hindu:[13]

This is a very, very delicate political issue. Now, the reality is that if I say something positive, then the Chinese immediately blame me. If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their own life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong. So the best thing is to remain neutral.

When asked by an Australian journalist – in the context of self-immolations to oppose Chinese rule and policies – if Tibetans are "losing patience with non-violence", the Dalai Lama replied:

No. I think the self-burning itself on practice of non-violence. These people, you see, they easily use bomb explosive, more casualty people. But they didn't do that. Only sacrifice their own life. So this also is part of practice of non-violence.[14]

French anthropologist Katia Buffetrille comments:

During the hunger strike of Thubten Ngödrup in 1998, the Dalai Lama expressed his disagreement with this kind of practice, which he considered as violence against oneself. However, he cites often Gandhi, for whom hunger strike was a non-violent act. He expressed his admiration for the courage of these people and attended prayers for them. But he questioned the effectiveness of such actions, he said, [these actions] lead to increased repression. Now he does not want to say anything about this [topic] any more..[15]

Wen Jiabao, premier of China, said that such extreme actions hurt social harmony and that Tibet and the Tibetan areas of Sichuan are integral parts of Chinese territory.[16] According to The Economist, the self-immolations have caused the government's attitude to harden.[6]

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, writing on CNN Belief Blog, suggests: "Why not create [what the Dalai Lama describes as] 'some kind of impression' that killing was wrong? Why not use his vast store of moral and spiritual capital to denounce this ritual of human sacrifice?", adding that "if the Dalai Lama were to speak out unequivocally against these deaths, they would surely stop. So in a very real sense, their (self-immolators’) blood is on his (the Dalai Lama's) hands." [17] Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, opposed that view on the CNN Belief Blog, urging to "understand the self-immolations" and arguing "instead of responding to China’s oppression with revenge – a path far more tempting to the basic human instinct – Tibetans have chosen a means far more peaceful. Without harming a single Chinese…". He is of the opinion that Stephen Prothero expresses "a colossal indifference to the courage and circumstances of those fighting for the same democratic freedoms and human rights that he himself enjoys."[18]

Impact[edit]

Self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese domination of Tibet have had a greater impact than earlier protests. Despite considerable loss of life during the Tibetan protests in 2008 on the part of both the Tibetan and Han population in Tibet, casualties were simply not reported by the Chinese government. Self-immolations, on the other hand, result in dramatic images of the protester, while burning[6] or afterwards,[19] which can be easily transmitted over the internet to news media and supporters. Internet access has reached even remote areas in the parts of China where Tibetans live.[20]

However, sensitive areas of Tibet are often subject to communication clampdowns.[21] These blackouts, along with the ban of foreign journalists and human rights monitors, means obtaining exact numbers of self immolations in Tibet is difficult. However, a number of organisations, such as Free Tibet, do keep up-to-date lists of confirmed incidents.

Time and place[edit]

2009[edit]

  • 1

February: Ngawa 1

2011[edit]

March: Ngawa 1, August: Kardze (Dau County) 1, September: Ngawa 2, October: Ngawa 5, Kardze 1, November: Kardze (Dau County) 1, India 1, Nepal 1, December: Chamdo 1

2012[edit]

  • 86 (84 in Tibetan areas, Beijing, India 1)

January (4): Ngawa 3, Golog 1, February (6): Ngawa 4, Yushu (Thridu County) 1, Amdo Haixi 1, March (11): Kanlho 1, Ngawa 7, Malho (Rebkong County) 2, India 1, April (4): Kardze 2, Ngawa 2, May (3): Lhasa City 2, Ngawa 1, June (4): Malho (Cantsha County) 1, Yushu (Thridu County) 2, Yushu 1, July (2): Lhasa (Damshung County) 1, Ngawa 1, August (7): Ngawa 6, Kanlho 1, September (2): Beijing 1, Yushu (Zado County) 1, October (10): Nagchu 1, Kanlho 7, Nagchu (Driru County) 2, November (28): Malho (Rebkong County) 9, Malho (Zeku County) 3, Amdo Haidong 1, Ngawa 3, Ngawa (Zoige County) 2, Kardze 1, Nagchu (Driru County) 1, Kanlho 2, Kanlho (Sangchu County) 3, Kanlho (Luchu County) 3, December (5): Kanlho (Sangchu County) 1, Kanlho (Luchu County) 1, Golog 1, Ngawa 1, Malho 1,

2013[edit]

  • 28 (26 in Tibetan areas, 2 Nepal)

January (3): Kanlho (Sangchu County) 2, Ngawa 1, February (9): Ngawa 1, Kanlho (Sangchu County) 2, Nepal 1, Ngawa (Zoige County) 3, Amdo Haidong 1, Kanlho (Luchu County) 1, March (5): Ngawa (Zoige County) 1, Ngawa 2, Kanlho (Sangchu County) 1, Kanlho (Luchu County) 1, April (3): Ngawa 1, Ngawa (Zoige) 2, May (1): Yushu (Chumarleb County) 1, June (1): Kardze (Dau County) 1, July (1): Ngawa (Zoige County) 1, August (1): Nepal 1, September (1): Ngawa 1, November (1): Golog 1, December (2): Ngawa 1, Kanlho (Sangchu County) 1,

2014[edit]

  • 11

February (2): Malho 1, Ngawa 1, March (3): Malho 1, Ngawa 1, Kardze (Litang County) 1, April (1): Kardze (Dau County) 1, September: (2) Golog 1, Kanlho 1, December (3): Kanlho 1, Ngawa 1, Kardze (Dau County) 1,

2015[edit]

  • 7

March: Ngawa 1, April (2): Kardze 1, Ngawa 1, May (2): Kardze (Dau County) 1, Kanlho (Jonê County) 1, July (1): Yushu, August (1): Kanlho (Sangqu county)1,

2016[edit]

  • 3

February (1): Kardze (Nyarong county), March (1): Ngawa (Dzoege county), December (1): Kardze (Machu county),

2017[edit]

  • 4 (until June 5)

March (1): Kardze, April (1): Kardze, May (2): Kanlho (Bora county) 1, Chentsa (Malho county)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Free Tibet. "Tibetan Monk Dies After Self-Immolating In Eastern Tibet". Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  2. ^ Edward Wong (11 April 2015). "Nun Sets Herself on Fire to Protest Chinese Rule in Tibet". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2015. She was the second woman to set herself on fire this year and the 138th Tibetan to do so since 2009 in Tibetan regions ruled by China, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group based in Washington. 
  3. ^ a b Edward Wong (2 June 2012). "In Occupied Tibetan Monastery, a Reason for Fiery Deaths". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  4. ^ http://freetibet.org/news-media/news-articles
  5. ^ "Teenage Tibetan nun sets herself on fire in China". The Daily Telegraph. London. Associated Press. 12 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d "No impact: Tibetan protests seem increasingly ineffective". The Economist. 31 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Teenage Tibetan monk self-immolates, dies: rights group". Reuters. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Tibetan teen burns himself to death in China protest". BBC News. 6 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Teenage Tibetan nun sets herself on fire in China". The Daily Telegraph. London. 12 February 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Two Tibetan teenagers die in self-immolations". BBC News. 28 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Self-immolation in India: Frighteningly common". The Economist. 26 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  12. ^ "Teenage monk sets himself on fire on 53rd anniversary of failed Tibetan uprising". The Daily Telegraph. London. 13 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  13. ^ "Dalai Lama speaks of dilemma on spreading self-immolations". The Hindu. 9 July 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  14. ^ Thomas Kauffmann (30 September 2015). The Agendas of Tibetan Refugees: Survival Strategies of a Government-in-Exile in a World of Transnational Organizations. Berghahn Books. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-1-78238-283-6.  and Dalai Lama shares wisdom on dissent, death and politicians, ABC news
  15. ^ Quand les Tibétains s’immolent. Rencontre avec Katia Buffetrille
  16. ^ "China Premier Wen Jiabao's comments at NPC press conference". Reuters. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  17. ^ Richard B. Miller (12 July 2016). Friends and Other Strangers: Studies in Religion, Ethics, and Culture. Columbia University Press. pp. 90–. ISBN 978-0-231-54155-8. and My Take: Dalai Lama should condemn Tibetan self-immolations
  18. ^ My Take: Why the Dalai Lama cannot condemn Tibetan self-immolations
  19. ^ "Photos of immolations". SaveTibet.org. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  20. ^ Andrew Jacobs (23 May 2012). "Technology Reaches Remote Tibetan Corners, Fanning Unrest". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "Communications clampdown". Free Tibet. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 

External links[edit]