News / Asia

Hundreds of Tibetan Students Demonstrate for More Freedom

Hundreds of students have taken to the streets in eastern Tibet to demonstrate support for protestors who are demanding greater freedoms under Chinese rule.

The protest Friday in the town of Rongwo in Rebkong, eastern Tibet - called Quighai Province in Chinese - was in reaction to the death Thursday of 18-year-old Kalsang Jinpa who died after setting himself on fire.

Witnesses said the former monk raised a white banner calling for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.  They also said the protest drew a large crowd and the situation there remains tense.

Word of the new protests came as China opened its 18th Party Congress in Beijing for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

Rebkong has now seen five self-immolation protests since March, including Wednesday's fatal protest by 23-year-old single mother Tamding Tso.

Tibetan exiles also confirmed Thursday that another man set himself on fire a day earlier in Driru, in Nagchu Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

On Wednesday, three teenage monks from the Ngoshul Monastery in Goman Township set themselves afire.  One of them died on the scene.

The new self-immolations bring the total number to at least 69 since February of 2009.  In 54 cases, the protesters have died.

In Dharamsala, India Thursday exiled Tibetans gathered to pay homage to the protesters during a special prayer service.

One of them, Lamsa, expressed hope the fiery protests would resonate with the rest of the world.

"We want them [world community] to show their support.  We want them to know what exactly is happening in Tibet," Lamsa. "We also want them to send press (media) in Tibet to know the facts.''

He also said it was no coincidence the protests took place just as China embarked on its leadership transition.

"This is because there is no freedom in Tibet and they are shouting for the freedom of Tibet and also for the return of his holiness, the Dalai Lama, back to his homeland," he said.

London-based Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden agreed, saying the protests were clearly aimed "at sending the next generation of China’s unelected regime a clear signal that Tibetans will continue to fight for their freedom despite China’s efforts to suppress and intimidate them."

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch cautions against drawing any conclusions about the timing of the latest protests, though HRW China Director Sophie Richardson calls the latest wave distressing.

"Until we see the Chinese government take steps toward meaningfully and seriously dealing with the kinds of grievances people in the region are articulating, we're going to see more of these," she said.

Richardson also says there are no indications Chinese leadership will take any public notice of the self-immolations during the much-watched Party Congress.

"I'm skeptical there will be any public or discernable discussion about Tibet or immolations except, perhaps, as vague references in the context of broader discussions about security and the quest for a more harmonious society," she added.

But Richardson says it is likely Chinese officials are talking about Tibet behind the scenes, especially given the way Tibetans are responding to the self-immolations.  

Funerals and cremation ceremonies for self-immolators have been drawing larger and larger crowds, sometimes numbering the thousands.  Often, there is little notice such memorials are about to take place, suggesting Tibetans are managing to spread the word about the protests despite the ongoing Chinese crackdown on sharing information.

"That has to have caught their [Chinese security officials'] attention," Richardson explained. "Whether they have any intention of responding to those in a rational way that is geared towards understanding and responding to the grievances really remains to be seen.  But I think until that happens we are going to get more of this heart-breaking news."

On Wednesday, Tibet's government-in-exile pleaded with China to change its approach to the issue of Tibet.

Parliament Speaker Pempa Tsering says it may be the only way to stop the deadly protests.  He also lamented that many Tibetans feel they have no choice but to burn themselves alive to make their cries heard.  

China has long accused Tibetan exiles of self-immolating as part of a separatist struggle, denouncing them as terrorists.

VOA's Tibetan service reported last month the offer of cash rewards in China's Gannan prefecture, called Kanlho prefecture by Tibetans.  Posters promised $8,000 to anyone who provides information "on the people who plan, incite to carry out, control and lure people to commit self-immolation."

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Wangchuk from: NYC
November 09, 2012 12:23 PM
Tibetans are demonstrating across the Tibetan Plateau that they do not want to live under Chinese. They want freedom from Chinese imperialism, the return of the His Holiness, and their own country back. This is a nationalist, anti-colonial movement which will not stop. China will have to kill all Tibetans in order to stop the Tibetan freedom movement.

by: Anonymous
November 09, 2012 5:55 AM
It's Qinghai Province,not Quighai province, you stupid and arrogant american

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs