News / Asia

Tibetan Activists Seek Attention, Action With Self-Immolations

Tibetan Activists Seek Attention, Action With Self-Immolationsi
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December 31, 2012 8:44 PM
The government in Beijing is reported to be tightening controls in parts of Tibet where residents have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Nearly a hundred self-immolations have been reported in a wave that began in 2009, and most are said to have ended in death. Tibetan activists outside the region are seeking to draw attention to the plight of their people. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports from Washington.

Tibetan Activists Seek Attention, Action With Self-Immolations

The government in Beijing is reported to be tightening controls in parts of Tibet where residents have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Nearly a hundred self-immolations have been reported in a wave that began in 2009, and most are said to have ended in death. Tibetan activists outside the region are seeking to draw attention to the plight of their people.

A group of Tibetan activists recently went door to door at the offices of U.S congressmen. They were rounding up signatures for a petition about the self-immolations in Tibet.

"We're actually here to ask Congress members to sign a letter that was headed by Congress members Wolf and McGovern to be sent to Barack Obama about what's been happening inside of Tibet," said Dadon Ngodup, who was born in India and has never known the land of her parents.

Fighting authoritarian rule

As an amateur cell phone video shows, young people have been setting themselves on fire in the streets of Tibet with hundreds of monks turning out for a funeral of one of their own. Kirti monastry is said to be the focal point of the movement.

These activists in Washington say Tibetans are despairing after more than 60 years of Chinese occupation.

"Honestly for me it's no longer about, 'We want a free Tibet, We want a free Tibet.' We're just talking about human lives that are being burned because they feel like they can't do anything else," said Ngodup.

Respect and sacrifice

One of Buddhism's key teachings is one must not kill any living being. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, preaches non-violence.

But Buddhism also includes the ideal of the Bodhisattvas - who sacrifice their own salvation for the greater good.

Tenzin Dorjee is with the International Tibet Network.

"When Tibetans look at the self-immolations, the way we see this is as an act of compassion, as an act of altruism. And every single Tibetan who has done this has not harmed a single other human being in the process," said Dorjee.

The Obama administration has said it believes the self-immolations have been exacerbated by tough Chinese policies in the region.

Increasing pressure

China has regularly made strong shows of force, and images of the Dalai Lama are banned. And that's who Beijing blames for the immolations.

"Maiming and destroying human life in order to reach a Tibetan independence separatist political goal will never succeed," said Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry.

State television recently showed an interview with a suspect who allegedly confessed to promising immolators they will become heroes abroad. Which they have, most certainly, for these activists.

Their vigil continues with a peace prayer as night falls at the White House.

The unprecedented wave of immolations is increasing international attention toward Tibet. These activists are hoping it will lead the Obama administration to increase pressure on the Chinese government.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: laolu
January 05, 2013 9:42 AM
Your comment is wrong. Tibet is not more independent in history. Dalai Lama had recognized Tibet belong to China before 1951.


by: Freedom of CHN from: China
January 02, 2013 6:04 AM
Somebody outside China spreading the news of the self-immolations in Tibet is just not for the people in Tibet but for something else and You know it.

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
January 04, 2013 10:01 AM
Contrary to CCP propaganda, neither the Dalai Lama nor any Tibetan has instigated or incited the 95 self-immolations since 2009. In fact, Tibetans have publicly discouraged such actions because we think our fellow Tibetans should live to fight the Chinese occupation. But since other peaceful forms of protest are quicly snuffed out by the Chinese police, these brave patriotic Tibetans are left w/ no other choice to voice the suffering of our nation at the hands of the CCP. Tibet was independent before 1951 and one day will be again. The PRC empire will eventually fall and then Chinese, Tibetans, and Uighurs will finally be free.

In Response

by: victory from: us
January 03, 2013 6:24 AM
Anyone who has common sense knows that the Dalai Lama has been the organizer behind the self-immolation incidents. Rather than condemning and calling for an end to the suicidal acts that deviate from the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, the 14th Dalai Lama and his supporters glorify those who self immolate and regard them as heroes. Dalai is just a hypocrite! A bloody murderer!

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