Ngaba Update for October 19th

A ton of reaction pieces out today, as the self-immolation of a nun seems to have made this into a larger story than it was before. First, AFP somehow managed to get a reporter into Ngaba itself- lord knows how they did that:

Police in full riot gear carrying automatic rifles and iron bars stand guard outside a huge Tibetan monastery in southwest China, the scene of a series of self-immolations by Buddhist monks.

Police, many carrying riot shields and armed with clubs and iron, lined the streets of the town, which has a population of around 20,000 mainly ethnic Tibetans who say their culture is being eroded by China’s government.

Large groups of soldiers in camouflage carried automatic rifles, metal rods with spiked tips and fire extinguishers, while police buses, trucks and armoured personnel carriers blocked the streets.

Shops and restaurants remained open and people went about their daily business on the streets of Aba, but police were checking all vehicles moving in and out of the town, slowing traffic through the main street to a crawl.

AFP’s reporters were unable to gain access to the Kirti monastery, but saw large groups of police stationed outside the sprawling complex, as red-robed monks walked around inside.

Few, if any, foreign journalists have gained access to the town since then and AFP’s reporters were briefly detained by police, who confiscated one camera and deleted photographs of police and the military presence.

“You can take pictures of all the scenery you want, but you cannot take pictures here,” one policeman said. “You are free to leave. You must not stop until you have left (Aba) county.”

Another AFP story, from a nearby Tibetan region (unhelpfully, its Tibetan name is never identified in the story itself):

Monks interviewed by AFP at a monastery in Hongyuan county in southwest China after the nun’s death on Monday linked the recent unrest to Beijing’s refusal to engage the Dalai Lama in meaningful dialogue.

Hongyuan in southwest China’s Sichuan province neighbours Aba county, home to the huge Kirti monastery, which has become a flashpoint for Tibetan Buddhists’ anger over what they say is the erosion of their culture.

The monk, who AFP is not naming out of concern for his safety, said many at his monastery opposed the use of self-immolation, and were hoping that such actions would not bring further trouble to other Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

“Those monks should not be engaging in self-immolation, this is not right. But they have a different view of this,” said the monk, aged in his thirties.

“We fear that their actions will bring trouble to our monastery. Now we don’t know what will happen or what the authorities will do. We just have to watch out for our own safety.”

Lobsang Sangay, the new prime minister of the exiled Tibetan government, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the “repressive policies of the Chinese” were the root cause of the immolations.

But he said his administration did not support self-immolation as a form of protest, fearing possible reprisals from the Chinese authorities on the Tibetan community there.

“We do not encourage any form of protest inside Tibet because we know the consequences,” he said.

Other monks directly accused China’s ruling Communist Party of mishandling Tibet and the issue of the Dalai Lama.

“The Communist Party is no good,” a monk from Aba county who was in Hongyuan told AFP. “The situation is complicated, but monks are committing self-immolation in protest.”

From Peter Foster in The Telegraph:

If China’s rulers ever wanted a demonstration that their handling of the 60-year running political sore that is Tibet wasn’t working, then surely the ninth self-immolation this year – and the seven in less than a month – is proof enough.

But whatever China says about conditions in Tibet, these incidents say different.

China’s instinctive reply to these self-immolations is to lash out, to blame malign foreign influences for stirring up trouble and redouble the kind of crackdowns and Patriotic re-education campaigns documented by Human Rights Watch (here) and others.

But as these self-immolations so eloquently and terribly attest, that policy doesn’t work and it never will.

It also suggests that Chinese hopes that the ‘Tibetan problem’ will somehow fade from world view when its iconic figurehead the Dalai Lama dies, are wildly optimistic.

His Holiness’s passing might fracture the government-in-exile, it could precipitate in-fighting in rival schools of Tibetan Buddhism and it will indeed deprive the Tibetan cause of its global messenger.

But for as long as conditions in Tibet are so oppressive that people are prepared to set themselves on fire then the great apparatus of the Chinese state – it’s army, secret police and propaganda machine – can never win the argument.

On the other hand, via Phayul we learn that China has a plan for solving the Tibet problem!

In wake of the fiery episode of self-immolations in Tibet, China is reportedly planning to send 20,000 Chinese officials to Tibetan villages.

“These Chinese officials will stay one year in the Tibetan villages to espouse patriotism and love for China,” said Bawa Kalsang Gyaltsen, a member of Tibetan parliament and a China expert based in Dharamsala, the seat of Tibetan administration in exile.

According to Gyaltsen, Chinese national flags and photos of Chinese leaders in large quantity will be distributed in all Tibetan villages.

“Usually Tibetans in the villages put up photos of Chinese leaders on the altars and walls when Chinese officials visit the villages and pull them down once they leave,” said Gyaltsen.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this probably won’t help anything.


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Filed under ethnic conflict, protests, Tibet, violence

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