154 self-immolations in Tibet since 2009, says Tibetan govt-in-exile

Gagandeep Singh Dhillon
Tibet self-immolations, Tibetan govt-in-exile, Tibet news, shimla news, indian express news

The video report, titled ‘Five Pressing Human Rights Violations in Tibet: Year in Review 2019’, has been released by the UN, EU and Human Rights Desk, Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration. (Representational Image)

In 2019, a Tibetan protester died following self-immolation while numerous other residents of Tibet were arbitrarily arrested or detained for acts such as writing an essay on decreasing jobs or sharing photos of the Dalai Lama on social media, a review report released by the Dharamshala-based Central Tibetan Administration has alleged. It further alleged that thousands of monks and nuns were forcibly evicted (and later tortured) from the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist Center where large-scale demolitions took place.

The video report, titled ‘Five Pressing Human Rights Violations in Tibet: Year in Review 2019’, has been released by the UN, EU and Human Rights Desk, Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration.

According to the review, 24-year-old Yonten died following a self-immolation protest at Meruma, Ngaba on November 26 last year. “Tibetans continue to set their bodies ablaze to protest against Chinese policies and its rule in Tibet,” the review said, adding that at least 154 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet since February 27, 2009, including 128 men and 26 women. Of these, 132 self-immolators are known to have died, it said.

It further alleged that many Tibetans continue to be wrongfully and unjustly sentenced under an “opaque Chinese judiciary system”. A Tibetan named Wangchen was sent to jail “for praying for the release of the 11th Panchen Lama” while his aunt was sentenced “for sharing news of Wangchen’s protest with outsiders,” the review said.

Similarly, a man was sentenced to a prison term of 18 years for staging a peaceful protest while nine others were sentenced for petitioning against alleged land grab by the local Chinese authorities after being accused of founding an “evil organisation,” said the report. Two men from Kirti Monastery were jailed for unknown charges and a community activist was arrested and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, after being “falsely charged” for “gathering people to disturb social order” and “picking up quarrels and provoking troubles,” it added.

‘Freedom of speech, expression violated’

Sonam, a masters student at Northeast Minzu University was detained in January 2019 for writing an essay on the decreasing number of government jobs in Tibet, while another Tibetan was detained for a week in July for sharing photos of the Dalai Lama on WeChat, the Tibetan government-in-exile has alleged in its review.

There were two more WeChat-related arrests - a monk from Kirti monastery was arrested for posting pro-Tibetan language comments while another resident was “arrested for sharing Tibetan books”, according to the report. It added that a Dringri County resident was detained in February after he called his younger brother in exile and emphasised the importance of Tibetan language education.

In November, six Tibetan monks and two youngsters were arrested in the town of Dza Wongpo for allegedly scattering pro-Tibet leaflets following which 30 more town residents were detained.

‘Destruction of faith’ at Buddhist Centers

The report alleged that in May 2019, around 3,600 residents were evicted from Yachen Gar and forced into detention centres for ‘political re-education’ where they were “tortured with mental, physical and sexual harassment”. Large-scale demolitions at the centre levelled almost half the complex and the Chinese government has taken immense control of the administrative functions of the Buddhist centres, stationing 600 officials at Yachen Gar alone, the report alleged. It added that authorities have also banned new enrollment at Larung Gar Buddhist academy.

‘No access to mother tongue’

The report said that in addition to making Mandarin the primary medium of instruction in schools, Minzu University ended instruction in Tibetan language last year while the Golog Prefecture education department ordered all primary and middle schools to switch from Tibetan to Mandarin. Also, Tibetan students in Nangchen were barred from attending informal Tibetan classes at local monasteries and the sessions were termed “dangerous”, the report alleged.

The report added that government job application notices often ask applicants to fulfil conditions such as supporting the ideology of the Communist Party of China or “oppose separatism and expose the Dalai Lama”.

The report concluded by quoting the Dalai Lama’s message at the Geneva Form last year — “The international community should support China in becoming a nation with rule of law, respect for freedom and commitment to human rights. Such an outcome will be good for China’s own future.”