By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 30: The Dharamshala-based research group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said that five known deaths by means of suicide have taken place primarily due to the draconian measures adopted by the Chinese government under the Zero-Covid policy, which has been widely criticized both inside Tibet and abroad. The report claimed that five Tibetans committed suicide in a span of three days from September 23 to 25 in the capital city of Lhasa.
A widely circulated video clip of an unidentified person jumping from a building which shocked netizens and highlighted the extend of the situation in Tibet, is said to be from Gakyiling neighbourhood in Lhasa city according to information published on platforms such as Weibo and Wechat which are popular social media sites in China. The report gave four estimated locations of where those five people took their own lives, “Five people who died of suicide on 23, 24 and 25 September were from Lhasa Comprehensive Protective Tariff Zone no. 2 (West Lhasa), the Bayi community (southwest Norbulingka), Lanting apartment (near Tibet University), and Gakyiling neighbourhood 3 (east of Lhasa).”
A post from a user on Weibo dated September 24 alongside a picture of an apartment building in Gakyiling neighbourhood read, “It rained today in Lhasa as if to mourn the person who died. Only the dead can reach heaven. The human realm is hell. Only those living in Lhasa can understand the situation of the epidemic in Lhasa. I request everyone to look after us. I request the authorities to stop deceiving the masses. The masses have suffered too much.”
One of the posts that TCHRD found online had a picture of a dead person on a flight of stairs with an alarming message that read, “What does Covid prevention and control mean to us? Despair, desperation. No one speaks up. Even when someone speaks, [his voice] cannot go beyond the Dangla Mountains [central Tibet]. These lives must be happy in heaven because they have escaped this hell realm.” Chinese censors have already removed these posts critical of the government measures and persecuted users who post any other narratives besides theirs. One of the comments on such posts read, “Extreme repression has cost the lives of four persons. This cannot be tolerated further. But [one] should not have protested by giving away one’s life.”
A rare apology made by Lhasa officials admitting failure in their management this month and instead punitive measures have been ramped up. Information through TCHRD sources in Lhasa revealed that “all those who had spoken out after the issuance of the formal apology had been detained”. The news of detention from several affected places continue to be reported; rights group Tibet Watch on Monday said that a Tibetan teacher was arrested in Chongchi County on August 14 merely for posting about the lockdown in Lhasa. His current whereabouts remain unknown for over one and half months since his arrest.