On December 9th 2012, the day on which the Tibetans remember the death of the fourteenth century Buddhist master Lama Tsongkhapa, two other Tibetans set themselves on fire in China to denounce “the occupation of Tibet.” Kunchok Pelgye, 24, immolated himself in front of the monastery Taktsang Lhamo Kirti, in the central province of Sichuan Chinese and Perma Dorjee, 23, died in the same way in the monastery Shitsang Garser in the northern Chinese province of Gansu, where other sacrifices already have occurred.
According to the Tibetan agency Phayul, there were 32 cases of self-immolation just last December and 94 cases, including the self-immolation of monks and nuns, young mothers and students, from February 2009 onwards. The Tibetan government in exile argues that political repression, economic marginalisation, environmental destruction, cultural assimilation and Dalai Lama’s ideological demonization are the reasons for the self-immolations of these people who demand the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and the expulsion of the Chinese.
Beijing accuses the ‘Dalai clique’ to encourage the young to immolation but in reality the Tibetan leader has consistently criticized this form of complaint, urging young people not to waste their lives in this way. To protest against this phenomenon, last November some young students in Dowa have lowered the Chinese flag from their institutions and government offices and approximately 5000 children and teachers of the Rongwo schools have organized a peaceful demonstration.
After this, the Chinese authorities of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Malho, in the province of Qinghai, and local Communist Party officials have ordered the removal of aid to the victims’ relatives and the suspension of all development projects in villages and towns where self-immolation has occurred, and in general were involved in demonstrations against Beijing.
Beijing moreover severely punishes officials who have made gestures of solidarity with the victims, gestures includings visits, messages of condolence or participation in funerals (the Communist Party members have an obligation to report the possible involvement of peers or seniors). Also religious and secular authorities who celebrated funerals or madevisits to the families of those who have committed self-immolation were punished by BeijingJanuary 1th 2013 saw the end of the two-day meeting of the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations that was set up in 1999 to assist the Dalai Lama’s envoys in the dialogue process with the Chinese government, in Dharamshala, the exile headquarters.
The CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) said the meeting, chaired by the elected head of the Tibetan people Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, discussed the “urgent need for peaceful resolution” of the issue of Tibet and renewed “its appeal to Tibetans not to undertake drastic actions, including self-immolations” because the Tibetan leadership “remains firmly committed to non-violence and the Middle-Way Approach, and strongly believes that the only way to resolve the issue of Tibet is through dialogue”. The Kashag (cabinet) added that the Task Force on Negotiations will be “reconstituted with additional new members, and a meeting will be convened soon after the National People’s Congress session in March this year, when the new Chinese leadership will assume full responsibility.”