His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing a gathering at the Tsug-la Khang temple, Dharamshala. (Phayul file)
DHARAMSHALA, August 30: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that although he doesn’t encourage self-immolations, the ongoing wave of fiery protests in Tibet was “understandable and very, very sad.”
The Dalai Lama was speaking to Reuters in a week when two more self-immolations in eastern Tibet against China’s continued occupation of Tibet took the self-immolation toll past 50.
"I will not give encouragement to these acts, these drastic actions, but it is understandable and indeed very, very sad," the 77-year-old Tibetan leader said.
"Now the Chinese government, they should investigate what are the real causes. They can easily blame me or some Tibetans but that won't help solve the problem."
After relinquishing his political duties last year to the elected Tibetan leadership, the Dalai Lama has been reluctant in responding to political queries, particularly regarding the self-immolations.
In a July interview to The Hindu, the Tibetan leader said it is best for him “to remain neutral” on the self-immolations, calling it “a very, very delicate political issue.”
“Now, the reality is that if I say something positive, then the Chinese immediately blame me,” he said. “If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their… life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong.”
China has been consistent in blaming the Dalai Lama and the exile Tibetan administration for inciting the self-immolations.
However, in many of the last notes and messaged left by the Tibetan self-immolators, they have called for freedom in Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama and opposed China’s occupation and repressive policies.
Choephag Kyab and Sonam, who carried out a twin self-immolation protest on April 19 near a local government office in Barma township, recounted the suffering of the Tibetan people due to the lack of fundamental human rights and the forced occupation of Tibet in their last recorded message
“So, for the restoration of freedom in Tibet and world peace, both of us in sound mind, are setting ourselves on fire,” Choephag Kyab and Sonam state. “The Tibetan people’s suffering due to denial of freedom is far greater that the tragedy of setting our bodies on fire.”
Tamding Thar, a lay Tibetan who set himself on fire on June 15 in front of a local Chinese police station in Chentsa, eastern Tibet wrote
: “With the yearning for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his land, For Tibet to be ruled by Tibetans, I set my body on fire as an offering of light.”
The US Congressional Commission on China in a special report
this month noted that the wave of self-immolations is “concurrent with increasing Chinese Communist Party and government use of legal measures to repress and control core elements of Tibetan culture, and with the failure of the China-Dalai Lama dialogue process to achieve any sign of progress.”
The Dalai Lama’s strongest statement yet on the self-immolation protests came in April this year when he told a media crew from Taiwan
that “this problem (self-immolations) has been started by the totalitarian, blind, unrealistic policies.”
“Now, the concerned people should carry realistic work and look for the causes of these self-immolations. That’s important,” the Dalai Lama had said. “All these problems are happening due to certain conditions and certain causes.”