By Tenzin Dharpo
Mayor Ko Wen-je of Taipei city. file photo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 24: The mayor of Taipei city, the capital of Taiwan known for his controversial statements have attracted fresh uproar with his comments on the self immolation of Tibetans in occupied Tibet.
During a city government meeting on Wednesday where the increasing number of self immolation in Taipei city was being discussed, Mayor Ko Wen-je made references to the self immolation cases in Tibet and said that such a suicide method is “trending”. “Self-immolation has been trending among the lamas in Tibet for a while, which has bothered the Chinese Communist government a great deal. [It is] not a good way to commit suicide”, he was quoted saying by the Taiwan News.
The comments that many said were insensitive and purported support for China’s repression on Tibetans that gave rise to the unprecedented string of self immolations by Tibetans over the years. Ko who was questioned a day later on his statements, refused to apologize and asserted his distaste for the form of protest.
Tashi Tsering, the Tibetan chairperson of the Taipei-based Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan, said Ko’s remarks are “unfathomable and outrageous.” He told TN that Ko is ignoring the suffering of the people in Tibet, Xinjiang, and even Hong Kong that are facing China’s authoritarian regime.
A Taiwanese activist Penghsuan Lee said the Mayor owed an apology to the self immolators and the people whose sentiments were hurt by his statement. She wrote on her Facebook, “Mayor Ko, you ignore the unspeakable suffering behind the Taiwanese people who choose to kill themselves. The Tibetan people were oppressed for 60 years, and more than 150 people chose to show their death to China as a form of protest.
You're not telling the truth. You are not only lying by using a biased framework, and one-sided explanation of the incident of Tibetan Self-immolators. You are self-righteous and lack empathy. It's not a matter of context or one-sided interpretation, but the appearance of the hypocrisy and disrespect for human rights and justice.”
Mayor Ko has attracted further disdain from the public for further adding that those who wish to commit suicide can overdose on sleeping pills instead of self-immolating.
Tibetans inside occupied Tibet as well as in exile have committed self immolation as a form of protest against China’s occupation, its repressive policies since 2008 (Thupten Ngodup) in India and 2009 (Tapey) in Tibet. The toll has crossed the unprecedented toll of 160.