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Bodeen reports: "Two dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in western China this month in a dramatic acceleration of the protests against authoritarian Chinese rule, activist groups say."

Exiled Tibetans shout slogans during a protest rally to express solidarity with Tibetans who have self-immolated and to appeal for immediate international intervention in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, November 28, 2012. At least 86 people have set themselves on fire since the immolations began in 2009. (photo: Altaf Qadri/AP)
Exiled Tibetans shout slogans during a protest rally to express solidarity with Tibetans who have self-immolated and to appeal for immediate international intervention in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, November 28, 2012. At least 86 people have set themselves on fire since the immolations began in 2009. (photo: Altaf Qadri/AP)

Two Dozen Tibetans Have Set Themselves on Fire This Month

By Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press

29 November 12


wo dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in western China this month in a dramatic acceleration of the protests against authoritarian Chinese rule, activist groups say.

The surge in self-immolations, along with an increase in large demonstrations, marks a new phase in the Tibetan protests.

At least 86 people have set themselves on fire since the immolations began in 2009. In a change in recent months, most self-immolators now are lay people - some of them acting together - rather than Buddhist monks and nuns who live in tightly monitored monasteries and thus can be more closely watched by authorities.

The protests have also sought to avoid direct attacks on authorities and government property, acts which in the past were used to label them as riots or terrorism, providing an excuse for greater oppression. Despite the altered approach, observers see little short-term possibility of Beijing changing its repressive policies.

"I think the problem will just escalate over time. The government shows no inclination to respond positively to recommendations for reform from the outside or Tibetans," said Michael Davis, a law professor and expert on Tibet at the University of Hong Kong.

In the latest immolation, 24-year-old Kalsang Kyab doused himself with kerosene and set himself alight Tuesday in front of local government offices in Kyangtsa in Aba prefecture, a hotbed of unrest, according to London-based Free Tibet and other groups.

An Aba official said Wednesday he was aware of the immolations but refused to give any details before hanging up.

On Monday, about 1,000 students at a Tsolho Medical Institute staged a bold protest about 900 kilometers (550 miles) to the north in Hainan prefecture in Qinghai province. Riot police fired shots into the air and released tear gas and beat the students with rifle butts, sending 20 students to the hospital, some with serious injuries, Free Tibet reported. Four students were detained as of Tuesday, according to U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

Tibetan and surrounding ethnically Tibetan regions have been closed off to most outsiders, and firsthand information from the area is extremely difficult to obtain. Authorities have not commented on the protest. Calls to the medical school rang unanswered Wednesday.

Driving the students to protest was a booklet distributed by authorities that derided the Tibetan language as irrelevant, attacked the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, and condemned the immolation protests by Tibetans as "acts of stupidity."

The booklet is the latest in a series of perceived slights and intrusive measures by Chinese authorities that have left Tibetans feeling that the culture, language and Buddhist religion that are at the core of their identity are under threat. The feelings have also driven the immolations.

The combination of immolations and large-scale protests is posing a new challenge for security forces, which have been stationed in large numbers in Tibetan areas in recent years.

The surge in self-immolations represents an awareness of the impact they are having among the Tibetan community and internationally, said Robbie Barnett, a Tibet expert at New York's Columbia University. That would likely inspire further protests, increasing the numbers of Tibetans willing to take their lives for the sake of their community, he said.

Most self-immolators have doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves alight after shouting slogans calling for Tibetan independence and blessings for the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 as Chinese troops - a decade after they occupied the region - were crushing an anti-government uprising.

Though protests have flared periodically over the decades, tensions boiled over in 2008, when deadly rioting broke out in the capital, Lhasa, and sparked an uprising across large swaths of ethnically Tibetan areas. Since then, security - already extremely tight - has been smothering.

The immolations have galvanized many Tibetans, who see them as selfless acts of sacrifice, making it hard for authorities to denounce the immolators. Similarly, protests by students are hard to demonize since they are typically non-violent and centered on issues such as language rights that are guaranteed under the Chinese Constitution.

While local authorities have cracked down hard following the self-immolations and other protests, authorities in Beijing have said relatively little other than to issue routine denunciations of the Dalai Lama and his followers. That indicates they are uncertain how to respond in a way that would bolster their authority and prevent the acts of defiance snow-balling into a full-blown protest movement, Barnett said.

"This suggests that the Tibetans have found a way of at least getting under the skin of the authorities," he said. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # AMLLLLL 2012-11-29 14:21
I'm sorry that it has to be so extreme, and sympathize with the Tibetans who do have the right to be left unmolested by the Chinese Gov't. Not unlike the way First Nations were, and to some extent still are, treated by the US Gov't.

The loss of culture is staggering.
+3 # luvdoc 2012-11-29 14:23
Will these protests continue at wall street? luvdoc
+14 # WestWinds 2012-11-29 16:12
I wouldn't mind if a few of the bankers involved with the subprime market scam set themselves on fire...
+15 # Bill Clements 2012-11-29 14:55
How extreme is that? The only effective way, to date, for getting under the CCP's skin is to burn off their own? What an absolutely horrific price to pay. Where is the rest of the world?
-3 # pietheyn07 2012-11-29 18:57
Why is the Dalai Lama not speaking out to his people to stop this insanity?
+4 # Rangzen 2012-11-29 22:03
The Dalai Lama has spoken out against these tragic actions. But in the absence of any spark of humanity on the part of the Chinese government, Tibetans are simply so desperate that they are taking measures into their own hands despite His Holiness' pleas for restraint.

How many more dead Tibetans will it take before the world confronts China about its decades of atrocities in Tibet?

As a Tibetan outside of Tibet, I have actually found myself contemplating such action myself...
+1 # Bill Clements 2012-11-30 13:05
+3 # dusty 2012-11-29 17:28
It is interesting that so much is made of this while in India the number of suicides, and these are suicides by immolation in Tibet, by farmers and their families is of a much higher magnitude are ignored so completely by the caring westerners. Maybe if India were a socialist state then the anti-socialists /anti-communist s would also support the poor of India. It is too bad that instead of working to resolve problems that people burn themselves as their participation is needed in moving forward.
+2 # David Starr 2012-11-30 12:51
@dusty: Exactly. The concern from anti-communists is very selective, and is aligned to "free" trade, usually. If I'm correct, 126,000 Indian farmers committed suicide because they could no longer handle massive debt-with creditors charging outragous interest rates-thus burying farmers further into an eventual, perpetual debt spiral.

Anti-communists, usually among the right, actually don't give a damn about Indian and Tibetan peoples. It's all about "free" trade, i.e, greed is good. So, yeah, your statement shows they are very selective in their "concerns."

But, if we're talking about authentic and accurate self-determinat ion, given that China and Tibet were once single entities, then Tibet does have a strong case. If the AP story is totally reliable, negotiations for Tibet's status is inevitable.

But U.S. leaders, e.g., see more than anything, a potential opportunity to-and this isn't far-fetched-mak e Tibet a market satllite. Given U.S. foreign policy, that doesn't sound great. (I immediately think of Iraq for example.)

But China and Tibet have to come to an understanding regarding a model for Tibetan self-determinat ion. It looks inevitable. And without the U.S.,-w ho see Tibet as a strategic issue, not a moral one-and U.S. ideology generally interfering, as it tends to do in the "Third World" regarding profiteering, and usually to the detriment of the many. Negotiations? yes. Imperialism butting in? NO.
+7 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-11-29 17:35
I agree, WestWinds. However, I also believe that there have got to be sanctions in place for the Chinese government--not allowing the rest of the world to know what's going on when they happen to be our number one trading partner? How can this be possible?
0 # RMDC 2012-11-30 04:43
hoodwinded -- what the hell are you saying -- sanctions against China!!! Where do you get the right to impose sanctions on anyone. I suppose you supported the sanctions against Iraq which resulted in the deaths of 560,000 children under 12 and 1.6 million people overall. did you agree with Madeleine Albright when she said "We think it was worth it." Sanctions kill children. Period. Wake up.

Personally I think the Chinese liberated Tibet from a fascist and medieval religious tyranny. The Dalai Lama is funded by the CIA. It is not hard to see the agenda here.
0 # Bill Clements 2012-11-30 13:13
There should be some action taken against China, if not sanctions. Silence should not be a convenient option.

As for the rest of your post, I can only say that this is the very same outrageous propagandistic drivel that China trots out to justify their unlawful invasion of a peaceful country. Ask any Tibetan if they feel "liberated" under the CCP? If life is better under the ongoing oppression there? What a laughable and monstrous idea.
-1 # David Starr 2012-11-30 13:13
@RMDC: The Iraq reminder was necessary. Tibetan self-determinat ion? Fine. But how? What will Tibet become? Another "free" trade haven under the dominion of the World Bank, IMF, austerity measures, and lead by the U.S.? Or prioritizing an egalitarian society where foreign corporations,e. g., will not have private monopolies resulting in dominating Tibet's economy?

I still have to agree that China produced some positives where theocracy and feudalism were swept away. Tibetans could have eventually done so, but it was during the Cold War, the world was looked as more B/W than shades of gray. I find it incredibly hard to beleive that Feudal Tibet was a perpetual paradise. Couldn't be, one reason being that there's no such thing as paradise, utopia, etc.

I am curious what this "booklet" is, deriding Tibetans.
+2 # MarieLavoe 2012-11-29 18:04
Come on, please don't do that. There are better ways.
+3 # MidwestTom 2012-11-29 22:16
I resect their commitment. Much better than trying to blow ones self op trying to kill other people.
+1 # fdawei 2012-11-30 00:45
The appaling silence from the entire world indicates their collective abject fear of upsetting the giant Dragon. China obviously believes in the hubris of all the books that have been written trumpeting its awakening.
The Dragon has claws and teeth that have been sharpened and is ready to use them to attack anyone and any country that dares criticize it or cross its path.

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