Following a wave of self-immolations by Tibetan clergy in protest against Chinese rule of their country, officials in Beijing have again accused the exiled Dalai Lama of encouraging such suicidal acts.
The Dalai Lama, the former spiritual Buddhist leader of Tibet who has been living in Dharamsala, India since 1959, offered prayers for nine Tibetans (eight monks and one nun) who have burned themselves to death this year.
Most of these acts have been carried out in the heavily Tibetan Aba prefecture in the Sichuan province in southwestern China, which borders Tibet.
China has reportedly arrested three monks in the area for allegedly helping the monks to self-immolate.
The foreign ministry in Beijing said the suicides were a form of terrorism in disguise and that the Dalai Lama and his followers around the world have played up the protests and encouraged people to take their lives.
In the wake of the incidents, overseas Tibet independent forces and the Dalai group did not criticize the cases, foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
On the contrary, they beautified, played up such issues to incite more people to follow suit. As we know, such [separatist] activities at the cost of human lives is violence and terrorism in disguise.”
However, since foreign reporters or observers are forbidden to enter Tibet, it is unclear the magnitude of the rebellion against Chinese rule – or, for that matter, the size of Beijing’s crackdown against the dissenters.
Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile, said in a statement that Tibetans have been pushed into a “desperate situation” by Beijing’s hard-line position in Tibet.
Through its propaganda, Beijing shows a different image, but in reality China practices colonialism and systematic destruction of the unique Tibetan culture, religion, language and environment, because of which Tibetans have peacefully demonstrated time and again, he said.
According to Free Tibet, a London-based campaign group, the nun in question, Tenzin Wangmo, aged only 20, was the first woman to commit a suicide-protest against Beijing’s domination of Tibet. She apparently cried out in the name of religious freedom and called for the return of the Dalai Lama, before setting herself on fire.
Stephanie Brigden, director of Free Tibet, told the media: The unrest in Tibet is escalating and widening. The number and frequency of self-immolations is unprecedented. Information from Tibet suggests there are more who are willing to give their lives, determined to draw global attention to the persistent and brutal violations Tibetans suffer under Chinese occupation.
Brigden also added: The acts of self-immolation are not taking place in isolation, protests have been reported in the surrounding region and calls for wider protests are growing.
China vociferously rejects any foreign interference regarding Tibet, insisting the mountainous Himalayan region has always been a part of China.