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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More