TibetWatch: March 14

Via RFA, news of student protests and another self-immolation:

A Tibetan monk set himself ablaze Wednesday at his monastery in China’s northwestern Qinghai province following protests by several thousand Tibetan students calling for education reforms, sources said.

The self-immolation occurred at a monastery in Qinghai’s Rebkong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, triggering protests by hundreds against Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas, exile sources said.

The burning came a day after nearly 4,000 middle school students held protests demanding Tibetan language and other rights in Rebkong and in neighboring Tsekhog (in Chinese, Zeku) county, sources inside Tibet said.

In the latest incident, 34-year-old monk Jamyang Palden set fire to himself at around 10.30 a.m. local time at the prayer-hall grounds of the Rongwo Gonchen Monastery in Rebkong, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA after talking to contacts in the region.

Chinese security forces surrounded the monastery and tried to disperse hundreds of Tibetans who had gathered for prayers and to protest Chinese rule, but the crowd refused to disperse.

A couple of hours later, hundreds of Tibetans converged at the monastery to protest, drawing Chinese security forces.

“Around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m., local Tibetans gathered on the grounds in front of the monastery and raised slogans. They recited prayers for the Dalai Lama and remained firmly at the site,” another Tibetan exile source said.

“The local police ordered them not to recite prayers and to disperse, but the crowd refused,” the source said.

“The situation is tense.”

Woeser has a piece in FP about Han reactions (or the lack thereof) to the self-immolations:

For the Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of China’s population, there is a similar expression engraved in their history books: “Whoever is not among us must be of a different heart.”

Originally, these words were not frightening. Over the years, though, the sentiments they express have created an atmosphere of raw violence. Minorities stand in the way of the grand unity of China’s different peoples; they must be Sinicized or extinguished. The ethnic minorities who live in China, the Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongolians, and others, understand that this view of ethnic minorities is actually quite widespread, that it is the mainstream, that they receive little empathy from the majority.

A few Han Chinese have spoken out. Human rights lawyer Teng Biao said this year that “Chinese public intellectuals have kept mum [about the immolations], pretending to be ignorant of what’s happening, silently cooperating. They are as shameless as the murderers themselves.” In 2008 after the authorities suppressed the Tibetan protests, Teng and more than 20 Chinese rights lawyers issued a public statement saying they were willing to provide legal assistance to those Tibetans who had been arrested. As a result, Teng lost his lawyer’s license; the other lawyers involved also met with difficulties.

The authorities always say that they “liberated” Tibet, bringing “happiness” to 6 million Tibetans. But why, so many years after the 1959 liberation, are the serfs revolting against their liberators? The authorities have an explanation: The “Dalai clique” is to blame for all this — the protests, the young Tibetans taking to the streets, the violence. Chinese media have turned this lie into public opinion. And the Chinese people, indoctrinated by the one voice with which the Chinese media speaks, don’t understand why Tibetans protest and don’t care to learn.

Tibetans have no voice in China. The Dalai Lama, who has been in exile for 53 years; the Panchen Lama, who has been missing for 17 years; the 27 people who have set fire to themselves over the past three years, a group of people between the ages of 17 to 41, monks and nuns, farmers, herders, students, and the parents of children — the only existence they have in Chinese society is one in which their reputations have been sullied and the truth has been distorted.

And still the Han Chinese say nothing. Many keep silent because they accept the concept of grand unity, where all minorities need to be shoehorned into fitting under Chinese rule. Some keep silent because they mind their own business, a traditional principle of Confucianism that has devolved into selfishness. And some are silent because they are afraid. In Beijing recently, someone transmitted news of a Tibetan committing self-immolation on Sina’s microblog (China’s Twitter). The police took him to a police station in the middle of the night and warned him not to mention Tibet again.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, protests, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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