By Lys Anzia, WNN, August 9, 2012
At 12:40pm Tibet local time on November 3, 2011, a Buddhist nun in Tibet stands in the street after she has set herself on fire. Her name is Palden Choetso, who was 35-years-old at the time. After setting herself ablaze she died from her injuries. She set herself on fire on the Chume Bridge in the centre of Tawu in the Kandze Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province in Eastern Tibet. Palden Choetso was from Geden Choeling Nunnery in Tawu and had been a nun for 15 years. This image is from a video that was smuggled out of the Sichuan Province region in November 2011.
(WNN) Kanlho region, EASTERN TIBET, CHINA: Under increasing incidences of self-immolation over the last year with what advocates have called a “a widening area of Tibet,” a 26 year old mother named Dolkar Kyi set herself on fire Tuesday outside the Tso city Monastery in Kanlho, Eastern Tibet in what advocates say is a strong act of protest against China’s policy in the Tibetan region. She later died from injuries related to setting herself on fire.
Human rights advocates say her protest was a statement made to call attention to current restrictions in China’s Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture region centered on what Kyi herself called limits to “freedom in Tibet” and religious rights, reported advocacy group FreeTibet.org on Tuesday.
In contrast and direct conflict with the FreeTibet.org news release, China’s State-owned Xinhua news said on Tuesday that Drung Gertso is actually the name of the woman who set herself on fire on Tuesday as she was suffering under what Chinese authorities called “intermittant mental disease.” They also said Gertso was suicidal due to family and marriage problems.
The volley between Chinese reporting agencies and Free Tibet advocates has caused what human rights advocates call an extreme blind eye by the government of China to acknowledge or recognize the desperation of protest with self-immolation under the critical needs for religious freedom in the region. In contrast, Chinese based philosopher Ms. Hua Zi, a researcher at the China Tibetology Publishing House, has called the self-immolation deaths “separatist” activities.
Regardless of the political context, self immolation deaths are continuing at an increased pace for Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in the region.
“By playing up the Tibet issue in the international community and smearing China’s ethnic policy, they intended to create excuses for the so-called ‘independence of Tibet,’” said Ms. Hua Zi in a November 2011 interview with Xinhua news.
“Officials have refused to address the underlying repressive policies against Tibetans’ religion, culture, and language that have likely contributed to this unprecedented tragedy,” outlined U.S. Congressional Chairman Christopher Smith of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China in February 2012. “Instead, they reportedly have fired on Tibetan protestors, tightened security even further, and closed off Tibetan areas to the outside world,” continued Chairman Smith. “Vice President Xi should protect the freedom of religion and spiritual belief of all those in China, whether they be Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, or Falun Gong practitioners.”
In June 2012 this year, travel agencies were forced to turn away foreign travelers who wished to visit the Tibetan region after officials in Beijing banned all foreigners entrance to the region.
1989 Nobel Peace Laureate and present human rights advocate Tenzin Gyatso, who is also known as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was given responsibility as the then ‘Head of State’ of Tibet at the age of 15 in 1950. In 1959, as the conflict between the Tibet and Chinese policy in the region increased to dangerous levels, the Dalai Lama escaped and entered India along with 80,000 plus refugees. Many of them relocated with the Dalai Lama to the town of Dharamsala, considered today by many to be the seat of the Tibetan ‘Government-in-exile.’
Attempting to stay clear of the volatile international politics surrounding the issue, the Dalai Lama has continued to speak of his wishes for peace in the region while outlining the ‘hardship’ for native Tibetans who are now losing their culture through increasing fear and military presence.
“Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people, the Chinese authorities have responded to the self-immolations by increasing restrictions, torturing members of the self-immolators’ family or their acquaintances and taking several into custody without any judicial process,” said Bhuchung K. Tsering, Vice President for Special Programs for International Campaign for Tibet in Washington, D.C.
during a July 25, 2012 hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. “These stringent restrictions will only increase the sense of injustice and discrimination felt by Tibetans. As long as Tibetans continue to be denied the opportunity to live a life of equality, respect and dignity, it is clear that they will undertake actions to convey their feelings.” he continued.
Today the Dalai Lama no longer considers himself to be the political leader of the Tibetan people. “In 2001, the Tibetan people elected the Kalon Tripa, the political leader, directly for the first time. Since then, I have been in semi-retirement, no longer involving myself in the day-to-day administration, but able to dedicate more time to general human welfare,” He said in a March 2011 formal statement during the Fourteenth Assembly of the Tibetan’s Peoples Deputies, known today as the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala.
“I believe the demonstrations and protests taking place in Tibet reflect reaction to repression. Further repressive measures will not lead to unity and stability,” outlined the Dalai Lama in a separate formal statement made in 2008.