A screen grab of a video of Palden Choetso's self-immolation on November 3, 2011 in Tawu, eastern Tibet
DHARAMSHALA, December 6: In a further hardening of stance on the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet, China will now charge anyone caught aiding or inciting Tibetan self-immolations with murder.
The state run Gannan Daily
on Wednesday cited a joint legal opinion issued by China’s supreme court, top prosecution body and police as saying that the charge of “intentional murder” should apply to anyone urging Tibetans to set themselves alight.
Since 2009, as many as 92 Tibetans have set themselves on fire protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet and demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile. The month of November, during which China held its 18th Party Congress, was the deadliest, since the wave began, with 28 self-immolation protests.
“The recent self immolations in Tibetan areas are mutually linked to hostile forces in and out of China, they are plotted, organised and incited by separatist nations and are seriously odious incidents aimed at destroying ethnic unity and fomenting social disorder,” AFP quoted the paper as saying.
“The legal opinion clearly points out that those criminals behind the scenes who plan, incite, aide, abet ... and help those perpetrating self immolations will be investigated for criminal liability in the crime of intentional murder.”
Following the escalation in self-immolation protests, Chinese authorities have announced a series of strict measures targeting the ongoing wave of self-immolations with further restrictions, punishments, and threats.
The global rights group Human Rights Watch recently blamed China’s “increasingly pervasive and punitive security measures” in response to the protests for having “exacerbated the situation” in Tibet.
HRW in a release said that the Chinese government has authorised “increasingly aggressive moves” against both individual Tibetans and Tibetan communities where immolations have taken place while pointing out that the use of “collective punishment” is contrary to international human rights law.
“Since late October, officials have responded to immolations by punishing the families and communities of protestors, characterising immolations as criminal offenses, arresting those associated with immolators, and by deploying paramilitary forces and restricting communications and travel in areas where immolations have occurred,” the group said.
“The central government should devote as much energy to addressing the deep-rooted problems facing Tibetans as it is on punishing the families of those who have taken the drastic step of protesting by self-immolating,” HRW noted.
“Instead of stepping up repression and driving people to believe there is no hope of change, Beijing needs to take steps to respond to Tibetans’ grievances.”
Dozens of Tibetans have been sentenced to lengthy jails terms, including life imprisonment, in connection with the ongoing wave of fiery protests. Tibetans have been arbitrarily arrested while many have ‘disappeared.’
The exile Tibetan administration maintains that the current situation in Tibet has stemmed from “several decades of Chinese misrule in Tibet” and discontent of the Tibetan people arsing from “political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalisation, and environmental destruction.”