News / Asia

Report: Tibetan Threatening Self-Immolation Dies Mysteriously

Tibetan exile walks past Rapid Action Force personnel at Majnu Ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee camp, New Delhi, March 27, 2012.
Tibetan exile walks past Rapid Action Force personnel at Majnu Ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee camp, New Delhi, March 27, 2012.
A Tibetan man who disappeared under mysterious circumstances is presumed dead, with activists accusing Chinese security forces of orchestrating his murder.
 
The man, 57-year-old Dorjee Rabten, had been prepared to set himself on fire to protest Chinese rule.
 
Gyaltsen Choedak, an exiled Tibetan with close contacts in the region, says Rabten had traveled to the city of Siling when he met his end.
 
Tibet Self-Immolation Map, October 4, 2012 updateTibet Self-Immolation Map, October 4, 2012 update
x
Tibet Self-Immolation Map, October 4, 2012 update
Tibet Self-Immolation Map, October 4, 2012 update
"On August 23, Chinese security personnel murdered Dorjee Rabten in Siling's 'Pachen' guest house," said Choedak. "When his family could not reach him, they went to the guest house to look for him. The Chinese security official called Dorjee Rabten’s elder son Drukjham Gyal and told him that he should come at once to pick up the body and that he has to sign a document – if he does not sign, he won’t get the body. He was also warned that he could not bring any other member of his family."
 
But Choedak says the son never got the body or an explanation of how his father died. Instead, he was given what he was told was his father’s ashes and a warning that the family would face severe consequences if they shared anything about the death with outsiders.
 
Choedak and other sources, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, accuse Chinese security forces of killing Dorjee Rabten to prevent him from immolating himself in protest of China's Tibet policies.
 
VOA made numerous phone calls to the Chinese Embassy in Washington and the Chinese Consulate General in New York, but was unable to reach any officials for comment in for publication.
 
Increased arrests
 
If true, the accusation would represent a significant escalation in China's ongoing crackdown against Tibetans pushing for more autonomy. 
 
According to Sophie Richardson, China director for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Beijing's crackdown on Tibetan activists has become increasingly intrusive.
 
"[They're] placing more officials in monasteries, arresting monks, denying people access to the bodies of loved ones who've immolated," she said, adding that her group issued a report in July charging Beijing with blocking Tibetans in China from accessing uncensored news. "It really is sort of adding insult to injury."
 
Over the past several months, Chinese security forces have stepped up arrests, pursuing anyone involved with self-immolations; several monks were recently detained for taking pictures of a self-immolation, and in early October police in Nagchu arrested about 30 people after a 43-year-old man who set himself on fire in protest – including the victim's uncle, sister and brother-in-law.
 
Richardson says just the threat of more immolations is changing the way Chinese security forces patrol the streets.
 
"It's now fairly easy to photograph different parts of the security forces in downtown Lhasa, for example, walking around not just heavily armed with weapons, but carrying fire extinguishers as preparations to put out these immolations should they happen spontaneously," she said.
 
A question of timing
 
Since February of 2009, at least 57 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies in Tibet. While the Tibetan government-in-exile says 47 of those cases have resulted in deaths, there are no confirmed cases of Chinese officials stopping a potential self-immolation by killing the would-be protester.
 
According to Mary Beth Markey, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, while Chinese security officials have increasingly turned to intimidation and punishment as part of what she calls a misguided effort to control the flow of information, it has long appeared there was a limit to how far Beijing was willing to go.
 
"The Chinese response on the ground seems to be a great show of force, an attempt to exert control, but in the main it has not been a violent response," she said, adding that the upcoming change in leadership would make it a strange time for Beijing to change tactics.
 
"With all the tremendous concerns that this transition go smoothly," she said, "I don't think the Chinese are looking for any extreme responses inside Tibet." 
 
China has long accused Tibetan exiles of self-immolating as part of a separatist struggle, denouncing them as terrorists, while representatives of the Dalai Lama say protesters are driven to self-immolate because they cannot tolerate China's repressive policies.
 
Gary Locke, U.S. State Department ambassador to China, recently visited two monasteries in Aba Prefecture of Sichuan Province, which has seen 26 of self-immolations since 2009.
 
The visit was part of Locke’s first trip as ambassador to a predominantly ethnic-Tibetan region of the country.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid