January 26, 2012

Burning for Freedom in Tibet

“No people should be forced to live in such desperate circumstances that they feel they must resort to desperate means like suicide,” writes the Christian Science Monitor commenting the tragic type of protest that has become popular in two different parts of the world in the past two years. The kind of protest in question is setting fire to oneself, and the two different parts of the world that the CSM is referring to are Tibet and some countries of the Arab world. Perhaps the major difference (among many others) between the two cases is that, generally speaking, as far as I know, what is happening in Tibet doesn’t seem to deserve being noticed, or at least it is not getting the coverage it deserves. With very few exceptions like this or this:

Another Tibetan in southwest China self-immolated Saturday in the latest in a series of apparent protests against Chinese rule, activist groups said.
The self-immolation in the town of Aba in Sichuan province was followed by clashes between security forces and local Tibetans, said the London-based group Free Tibet.t protests against Chinese rule, activist groups said.
At least 16 Buddhist monks, nuns and other Tibetans are now believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year — including four in the past week — mostly in traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan province. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Yes, we are talking of Buddhist monks setting fire to themselves—of course in response to Beijing’s iron-fisted grip over Tibetan affairs—and this notwithstanding the fact that any form of suicide is widely seen as contrary to the teachings of their religion!

“You [the Chinese leadership] will never address the genuine grievances of Tibetans and restore stability in Tibet through violence and killing, the only way to resolve the Tibet issue and bring about lasting peace is by respecting the rights of the Tibetan people and through dialogue,” said Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of Tibet’s government in exile in Dharamsala in India, who denounced the shooting by police on hundreds of Tibetan protesters in western Sichuan this week. Of course he is right, but at the same time it’s pretty easy to predict that, even though the Tibetans’ struggle for freedom will continue, whether the whole world is watching or not,

As the communist government in Beijing struggles with issues of reform and modernization, it has retained and even intensified its hard-line policies against the Tibetan people. Given China's growing importance as an economic power and a general sense of fatigue in the rest of the word for meaningful action in defense of human rights, the people in Tibet can expect little concrete support in their quest for political freedom and religious liberty.

Candlelight vigil in Dharmsala, India, after news reports of self-immolation by two Tibetan monks at the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province's Aba prefectuture, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. Pic:AP



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