TibetWatch: April 19th

By my count it has been more than two weeks since the last self-immolation in Tibet itself, but two immolations in Dzamthang yesterday have broken the lull (via RFA):

Two Tibetan cousins set themselves ablaze Thursday in protest over Chinese rule in a Tibetan-populated area of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, according to exile sources.

“Local Tibetans and monks tried to douse the flames and took the two to their homes, but their chances of survival are slim,” he said, identifying the two as Choephak Kyab and Sonam. “There was a gathering among Tibetans later. Police and other security forces arrived and then communications were cut off.”

The self-immolations on Thursday brought to 35 the number of Tibetans who had burned themselves since February 2009 to back demands for an end to Chinese rule and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Twenty-five have died of severe burns.

Aside from Sichuan, the burnings also triggered street protests in the other Tibetan-populated provinces of Qinghai and Gansu as Tibetans questioned Chinese policies which they say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights.

The Dalai Lama last week blamed Beijing’s “totalitarian” and “unrealistic” policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.

Also, RFA and TCHRD are reporting that a school in Kardze has been closed for being just a little bit too Tibetan:

Chinese authorities in Sichuan province have closed a school linked to the promotion and teaching of the Tibetan language, detaining two of the school’s teachers and warning Tibetans living in the area not to attempt to reopen the facility, according to an exile source.

The school, which was established in 1987 in the Rongpo Tsa township with approval from Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county authorities, was closed on April 2, a monk living in South India said, citing contacts in the region.

“The school’s efforts toward preserving Tibetan language and culture had annoyed the local authorities,” the source said, adding that two of the school’s teachers—Nyendak, 51, and Yama Tsering, 36—had been detained by the police.

Though language protests in Tibetan areas have been treated in the past as local issues resulting from a “misunderstanding” of government policy, “it is only a matter of time, really, before these issues will be treated in a much more serious way,” Barnett said.

“We’re in a climate now where that’s actually extremely likely, that almost everything will be treated as a political challenge [caused by] outside instigation.”

Finally for today, the Tibetan Plateau Blog has a lengthy post describing a concrete instance of something Tibetans have alleged for years- that nomad resettlement campaigns, ostensibly put in place to protect the environment, are actually being done to clear the way for mining companies:

The establishment of protected nature reserves is a time-tested method of asserting state authority over territories and peoples that were previously subject to weak control. Whether it is in the name of protecting tigers in India, forests in Central America or headwaters in Tibet, the creation of protected parks come with coercive laws that limit the rights of people who live in and around the designated area.

Often the discourse on protected parks portrays them as benign environmental projects. However, on the dark side, protected parks and nature reserves frequently introduce mechanisms for social control and facilitate resource development and eco-tourism plans. It is little wonder that between 1980 and 2003, China has established 70 nature reserve parks in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

They go on to examine a park system in place in Tibet, where the exact areas that were originally sealed off for grassland revitalization have now been given to gold-mining companies.

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Filed under environment, ethnic conflict, nomads, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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