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 and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs