Tibetans and supporters in Dharamshala, north India, carrying out a protest rally demanding immediate joint action by world leaders on Tibet on February 18, 2013. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
DHARAMSHALA, February 18: With the number of Tibet self-immolations crossing the tragic milestone of 100 this month, Tibetans in the exile headquarters of Dharamshala today carried out a major rally demanding immediate joint action by world leaders.
Hundreds of Tibetans and supporters took part in a protest rally earlier this morning from the Mcleod Ganj Square to Lower Dharamshala, carrying Tibetan national flags and raising slogans for freedom and international intervention in the Tibet crisis.
The day-long events were jointly organised by the five major Tibetan NGOs, the Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Former Political Prisoners’ Movement, National Democratic Party of Tibet, and Students for a Free Tibet, India.
On February 17, Namlha Tsering, 49, became the 102nd known Tibetan living under China’s iron-fisted rule to self-immolate protesting China’s occupation and demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama.
In a move, which has been internationally condemned, Chinese authorities have sought to criminalise the self-immolations by handing out heavy sentences to Tibetans for “crimes” related to the protests.
Addressing the press at the beginning of the rally, the organisers blamed China’s “repressive policies and severe crackdown” on Tibetans for provoking the unprecedented wave of self-immolations.
"We strongly condemn the Chinese government's response to the recent protests and immolations in Tibet, which are exacerbating the situation and the suffering of Tibetans," said the organisers.
Over a hundred Tibetans stage a die-in protest in Dharamshala, north India holding pictures of Tibetan self-immolators on February 18, 2013. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
"Moreover, in an attempt to shift the blame for the wave of self-immolation protests in Tibet, the Chinese government has launched a chilling crackdown and a smear campaign that paints Tibetans as criminals and religious fanatics and accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in exile."
The marchers upon reaching Kacheri, the local Indian Judicial Complex, observed a minute’s silence in honour of all Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives for Tibet.
A die-in protest was also held at the main square with more than a hundred Tibetans lying down on the ground holding pictures of Tibetan self-immolators.
Speaking at the rally, the organisers demanded world leaders to institute multi-lateral mechanisms to advocate for the rights of Tibetan people and urged the Chinese government to reassess its “draconian policies” in Tibet.
They also called on Beijing to allow UN representatives and media groups to travel freely in Tibet to be able to determine the impact of Chinese policies and the level of individual freedom.
In the evening, a candle light vigil and a special prayer service was also held in honour of Tibetan self-immolators.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected head of the Tibetan people, in a statement last week called the Tibet self-immolations “ultimate acts of civil disobedience against China’s failed rule in Tibet.”
“Instead of owning the onus of tragedy in Tibet – a self evident responsibility of its over 60 years of continuous iron-grip rule in Tibet – China relentlessly and irresponsibly accuses His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership of inciting these self-immolations,” Sikyong Sangay, who is currently in the US said.