March 17: TibetWatch

McClatchy on what may have been three self-immolations on the same day:

Three ethnic Tibetans set themselves on fire in the Chinese province of Sichuan on Friday, according to a rights group report over the weekend that if correct would bring the total number of self-immolations to 19 in less than a year.

There were scant details available about the three who’d reportedly lit themselves aflame on Friday morning. An advocacy group based in London, Free Tibet, said in a release that one of the Tibetans died and the two others were believed to have lived after the incident in Ganzi Prefecture, known in Tibetan as Kardze.

BBC on protests in eastern Qinghai that are slowly creeping towards Labrang, itself a powder-keg at the best of times:

Sonam Thargyal, 44, was the second person to set himself alight this week in Rebkong county, Qinghai province.

Rights groups said truckloads of armed police arrived in Rebkong, but withdrew after a confrontation with mourners.

The group said thousands of people had attended the funeral, and quoted an eyewitness saying: “This is the biggest gathering of people I have ever seen in this place. People are pouring in from the villages.”

US-based Radio Free Asia quoted a Tibetan source as saying 7,000 people had come to Rebkong (Tongren in Chinese).

“Police and paramilitary forces did surround the monastery and tried to intervene but when the Tibetan crowd swelled, they withdrew,” the source said.

There’s at least one video from the area, which seems to show the day before the biggest protests:

Finally, from HRW we hear that China is going to make it official and roll Tibetan monasteries back to Mao-era levels of control. Their conclusion is obvious and undeniable: doing this will definitely be a direct cause in bringing tensions to even higher levels. Their report:

The Chinese government has ended a key policy of allowing Tibetan monasteries to be run by monks who comply with government regulations and have instead introduced a system that will place almost every monastery in Tibet under the direct rule of government officials who will be permanently stationed in each religious institution, Human Rights Watch said today.

On January 4, 2012, the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), Chen Quanguo, announced that government or party officials will be stationed in almost all monasteries permanently, and that in some cases they will have the senior rank and pay of a deputy director of a provincial-level government department. The permanent posting of government or party officials inside monasteries is unprecedented in Tibet, let alone at such a senior level.

“Although the Chinese government has placed many restrictions on the practice of religion in Tibet, these new regulations represent an entirely new level of intervention by the state,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “This measure, coupled with the increasing presence of government workers within monasteries, will surely exacerbate tensions in the region.”

Their report details exactly how Beijing will do this. Here comes trouble.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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