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February 20, 2014

China Notice on Tibetan Self-immolation Causes Controversy

by Da Hai Han

The issue of Tibetan self-immolations in China has taken a new turn as local authorities in Sichuan province have published harsh new regulations for dealing with the relatives of those who set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.

A new notification from the Ruigai county government, which has spread across the Chinese Internet, has 15 clauses that punish the families, communities and Buddhist temples of those that commit self-immolation. The provisions include seizure of land and assets as well as barring relatives from holding public office or serving in the police or military.

An official with the Ruigai county office, who did not wish to be identified, told VOA Thursday that they do not feel that the notification involves a sense of “guilt by association.” It is not clear yet which official issued the new rules.

Meanwhile, a popular Tibetan blogger based in Beijing, Woiser, told VOA that the new rules will backfire.

“These regulations to some degree are actually igniting fires, not fighting or extinguish them; but this invisible hand starting the fires is the authorities, their 16 regulations, each of them make Tibetans unable to breathe or make a living, they all have this kind of feeling,” said Woiser.

Since February 2009, more than 126 people have self-immolated in traditionally Tibetan areas of China.

The Central Tibetan Authority, located in exile in India, has urged Tibetans to refrain from this kind of intense action. Beijing has claimed the situation, however, is being caused by behind-the-scenes manipulation by the Dalai Lama.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.