“No mercy”

The Economist has another story about Ngaba and the self-immolations:

Today it is in Sichuan’s highlands that the authorities appear to be struggling most to contain simmering discontent among ethnic Tibetans. Sichuan’s two “autonomous prefectures” with large Tibetan populations are Aba (Ngawa in Tibetan) and Ganzi (Kardze), whose combined area is almost the size of Great Britain. Much of the area was once part of the famously warlike Tibetan region of Kham. In 1991, China’s then Communist Party chief, Jiang Zemin, said that “to keep Tibet stable, it is first necessary to pacify Kham”. That attitude is an ancient one among China’s rulers, and still applies.

Officials have reason to be fearful. For Tibetans, self-immolation is a new form of protest. Such acts are difficult for the authorities to prevent, and images of them can have a powerful psychological effect among sympathisers. Eleven Tibetans have tried to kill themselves this way since March. Six have succeeded, the latest a 35-year-old nun in Ganzi on November 3rd.

The anger and desperation that has prompted Tibetans to set fire to themselves is common across the plateau. In all of China’s Tibetan-inhabited areas, the authorities have rounded up innumerable monks, nuns and laypeople for taking part in the 2008 unrest. Reports of torture are rife. Many monks have been forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, who even in Songpan, where things are relatively calm, is deeply revered by Tibetans. This correspondent was often asked for news of him.

But Aba and Ganzi share an additional layer of resentment. Both prefectures saw the only well-documented cases of police firing on demonstrators in 2008 (20-30 people may have been shot dead in Aba town).

Woeser, a Tibetan blogger in Beijing who closely monitors the region, says the authorities inadvertently exacerbated Sichuan’s instability by expelling hundreds of visiting monks from monasteries around Lhasa after the 2008 unrest. Many of these monks were from Sichuan, and they returned to their monasteries with tales of Lhasa’s upheaval and the recriminations that followed. Others, barred from their original monasteries, became wandering malcontents. In Ganzi, Woeser says, passions have been stoked by the hardline fulminations of the prefecture’s ethnic-Han party chief, Liu Daoping. (Aba has a Han party secretary too, as, invariably, does Tibet itself.)

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet, torture, violence

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