News and Views on Tibet

The Dalai Lama expresses doubt over effectiveness of self-immolations

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DHARAMSHALA, June 14: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama has expressed doubts over the effectiveness of the unprecedented wave of self-immolations in Tibet, while calling the fiery protests “very, very sad.”

The Dalai Lama was speaking to reporters in Sydney on Thursday on the first day of his ongoing 11-day Australia visit.

“It’s a sad thing that happens. Of course it’s very very sad. In the meantime, I express I doubt how much effect (there is) from such drastic actions,” Reuters quoted the 77-year-old Tibetan leader as saying.

Since 2009, as many as 119 known Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.

On June 11, a Tibetan nun became the latest to set herself on fire in protest against Chinese occupation in Tawu region of Kham, eastern Tibet. More than 48hrs after her protest, details are still scratchy following a blanket ban on telecommunication services and internet in the region by Chinese authorities.

The Dalai Lama, who relinquished his political authority to the elected Tibetan leadership in 2011, called the immolations a “sensitive political issue” while stressing that Tibetans were not sacrificing their lives because of simple social or family grievances.

“I express this as a symptom of some causes of Chinese officials. They must investigate what is the cause of this symptom, of these events. It’s not the solution just to blame someone, including the Dalai Lama,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

He added that the Tibetans could “easily hurt other people,” but instead were choosing “to sacrifice their own lives, not hurting others.”

The Chinese government has responded to the self-immolations with even harsher policies, criminalising the fiery protests and sentencing scores of people to heavy prison terms on charges of “intentional homicide” for their alleged roles in self-immolation protests. Chinese officials have barred Tibetans from offering prayers and showing solidarity with families of self-immolators and announced the cancellation of development funds to those villages where self-immolations have taken place.

The exile Tibetan administration has made repeated appeals to Tibetans inside Tibet to refrain from drastic action including self-immolations.

The CTA maintains that the self-immolations “represent a new threshold of Tibetan despair and resentment” and attributes the current crisis in Tibet to China’s policies of “political and religious repression, economic marginalisation, social discrimination, cultural assimilation and environmental destruction in Tibet.”

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