TibetWatch: March 7th

News broke yesterday of a third self-immolation in as many days (RFA):

The young man, identified as Dorje, 18, set himself ablaze at around 6:30 p.m. local time in a nomadic area of Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in China’s western Sichuan province, said Kanyag Tsering, an India-based Tibetan monk, citing contacts in the region.

“Prior to his self-immolation, he walked from a bridge near the Charuwa nomadic area in Ngaba to the local Chinese office center shouting slogans against Chinese policies in Tibet, and then set himself on fire,” Tsering said.

He died on the spot, Tsering said.

Meanwhile, a monk named Rigdzin Dorje, who set fire to himself in February, is now reported to have died.

Another monk, Lobsang Konchog, who self-immolated in September 2011, “is in serious condition following [the] amputation of his legs and arms. He is being fed through a tube in his throat, ” the India-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said in a statement.

The staff at the hospital physically abuse him and have labeled him an “enemy of the state,” said the CTA, expressing condolences to the families of the self-immolators.

Holly Williams, a correspondent for Sky News, is the latest foreign journalist to have penetrated the security cordons and report from Ngaba. Her video footage is incredible:


Finally for today we have a WSJ op-ed from Thubten Jinpa, best known for being the main English translator of the Dalai Lama but in reality a genuine Tibet scholar in his own right:

So far, Beijing’s response has been simple: censor the news, label the protesters terrorists, blame it on outside forces and use excessive security force. This is almost exactly the same script we saw used by the ill-fated Gadhafi regime and currently in use in Syria by Bashar al-Assad.

The Communist Party leadership is failing to explore the causes of this new radicalization in a deeply religious society. Tibetans have lived, or barely lived, through a harsh crackdown in the wake of protests that swept across the plateau in 2008, racial animosity against ethnic Tibetans in the aftermath and the systematic demonization of their beloved Dalai Lama.

Beijing’s failures have possibly opened the way for a much more vocal and aggressive tone in Tibetans’ campaign for their legitimate aspirations. There may be a link between the current more radical protests and this change in political leadership. When the Tibetan freedom struggle was led by the Dalai Lama, there were certain norms which even the most vocal Tibetan critics of China implicitly respected, including trying to avoid publicly embarrassing Beijing. This can no longer be taken for granted.

Unwittingly then, the Party has been more successful than the exile Tibetan political establishment ever was in creating a strong united sense of national Tibetan identity across the entire plateau. If the current impasse continues, Tibetans may become bolder and demand full independence. We can also expect to see the current wave of self-immolation spreading to other parts of Tibet. No regime can have an effective weapon against individuals who are not afraid to die.

There is no doubt in my mind that 2011 was a watershed year in the Tibetan people’s struggle, and that with the ongoing campaign of self-immolation this struggle has crossed an important threshold. If China’s leadership fails to seize the narrow window of opportunity it still has left, it will lose Tibet forever.


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Filed under Dalai Lama, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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