News / Asia

Tibetan Monks Face Chinese Justice in Self-Immolation Case

Exiled Tibetans light candles in front of portraits of 16-year-old monk Phuntsog, during a candlelit vigil to honor the monk who set himself on fire in an anti-government protest, in Dharmsala, India, March 16, 2011
Exiled Tibetans light candles in front of portraits of 16-year-old monk Phuntsog, during a candlelit vigil to honor the monk who set himself on fire in an anti-government protest, in Dharmsala, India, March 16, 2011
Ivan Broadhead

After the suicide earlier this year of a young Tibetan Buddhist monk, who killed himself in protest at Beijing’s restrictions on religious freedom, two more monks face a "politically-motivated" trial in China Tuesday.

Tenchum and Tsering Tenzin are charged with "instigating and assisting" the death of Rigzin Phuntsog.

The 16-year-old monk died March 16 after setting fire to himself at Kirti monastery in China’s Sichuan province, close to the Tibetan border.

Kirti’s Tibetan Buddhist monks have staged several open protests defying Beijing’s authority since March 2008, when the worst anti-Chinese protests in a generation were violently suppressed across China’s ethnically Tibetan regions.

Robert Barnett, a Tibetan analyst at New York’s Columbia University, says these prosecutions are unusual, even in Tibetan areas, where a formal charge means an almost certain conviction.

"This looks like the situation that we are seeing that local officials or maybe central officials have decided to make these cases as an example to deter other Tibetans to protest," he said.

Tuesday’s trial follows that of the deceased’s uncle, Drongdru, a lama at the monastery. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for intentional homicide after a day-long hearing Monday.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reports that Drongdru, 46, concealed his nephew for 11 hours after the suicide bid, preventing Phuntsog from accessing life-saving treatment.

Activists dispute this allegation, insisting that monks rescued Phuntsog from Chinese police, who began to assault him after extinguishing the fire.

"The trial is a clear escalation in terms of reprisals for cases of self-immolation [and] the first time we have heard of such an action by the government,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.

In the past, most Tibetans involved in protests have been charged under state security laws. Tibet watchers say homicide charges mark a significant change in tactics by prosecutors that lead to longer prison sentences. Bequelin says this appears to be part of a broader effort by local officials to reign in the Kirti monastery.

"I think one of the objectives of this arrest is to break the spiritual back of Kirti, which has proven to be a very stubborn center of Tibetan identity and religiosity," he said. "Earlier this year, the government detained several hundred monks and disappeared them - essentially warehousing them in a government facility and carrying [out] political indoctrination."

At the time, Chinese officials said the monks needed to undergo “legal education” for disobeying Tibetan Buddhist rules and disrupting local order. Following protests from the United States and human rights groups over the detentions, Beijing officials called on critics to stop making "irresponsible remarks."

The trials follow a month of significant political change in Tibet affairs. Last week Beijing removed Zhang Qingli, the hardline Communist Party Secretary in Lhasa who ordered the 2008 crackdown.

Zhang’s successor, the former governor of Hebei province Chen Guoquan, vowed in his first speech in office “to resolutely carry on the Central Party’s instructions and policies regarding Tibet”.

Meanwhile the exiled Tibetan community elected Lobsang Sangay its new prime minister August 8.

"Of course, he has nowhere near the fame and respect that the Dalai Lama commands. Therefore it’s not clear how much political capital he can mobilize inside Tibet," said Bequelin.

The Harvard-educated lawyer is the first Tibetan leader to be born in exile, and is expected to assume many of the secular duties of the aging Dalai Lama. It is still unclear how China will ultimately react to the shifts in the Tibetan exile government.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid