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Chinese Predicament at Continuing Tibetan Self-Immolation

posted Oct 24, 2012, 5:49 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Oct 24, 2012, 5:50 PM ]

By Bhuchung K. Tsering, International Campaign for Tibet
Originally published at; reprinted in TPR with permission of ICT

Even as the Chinese leadership is engrossed with preparations relating to the upcoming 18th Party Congress, the continuing Tibetan self-immolations are posing a particular predicament to them. As I write this on October 23, 2012, there is the latest report of another Tibetan, Dorjee Rinchen, from the Labrang area in Amdo committing self-immolation.

Thus, the Chinese authorities’ hope of the issue fading away — as a result of a combination of threats suppression and increased control — before the Party Congress is not happening. There are indications that the Chinese leadership are now beginning to fear the negative impact of their lack of courage to deal with the developments in Tibet.

Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and a key figure involved in Tibet, is quoted by the official Chinese media on October 23 as saying, “the country is in a key period of fighting against the Dalai Lama group.”

Similarly, Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party, on October 19, told a “seminar on safeguarding security and stability during the upcoming national congress” that the “risk of major social problems should be evaluated to prevent and reduce conflicts in areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang.”

As an indication of lack of confidence in some of their officials in the Tibetan areas, the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo is reported by the People’s Daily as using a conference on October 16 to say “that local military officials should cooperate with police and be on standby around the clock, adding that officials would be dismissed on the spot if their areas of responsibility did not remain stable.”

The Chinese authorities want stability and fear destabilization on account of the situation in Tibet. However, the continued tragic self-immolations by Tibetans is a clear indication of the depth of feelings among the Tibetan people at their current state of affairs. The only lasting solution is for the Chinese authorities to address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people.

To start with, the Chinese leaders should really look at some of their own statements and apply them positively to their Tibetan policy. China’s Global Times quotes Jia Qinglin as saying that “Tibet-related issues were of paramount importance.” Is suppression the right way to deal with an issue that is really important? Similarly, it quotes Zhou Yongkang as telling the above-mentioned seminar that “people’s reasonable appeals as well as petitions should be better dealt with.” If he really wants to act on this, then why are the Chinese leaders letting so many Tibetan lives be lost without doing anything to redress their grievances. How many more Tibetans have to lose their lives before the Chinese authorities can consider them “reasonable appeals”?

It was a pity that during the final American presidential debate on October 22, 2012 that was devoted to foreign policy, hardly any time was spent on the fundamental American values of democracy and freedom. The United States and other countries have a responsibility to see that the peaceful struggle in Tibet succeed if they are for a more peaceful world. There is reason that people are beginning to ask why the world is not paying adequate attention to the developments in Tibet. Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins of the University of Virginia in fact said it well when he mentioned at a public event with the Dalai Lama on October 11, 2012 in Charlottesville that in Vietnam it took two such deaths and the world was aroused while in Tibet there have been more than 50 self-immolations and the world is not yet aroused.

In an interview with Ann Curry of NBC news (broadcast on October 11, 2012), the Dalai Lama said it was difficult to judge whether the method (used by the self-immolators) is right or wrong, but they are a non-violent expression of feelings regarding Chinese policies. He said that the Tibetans in Tibet are passing through really desperate situation.

Commenting about the nature of the Tibetan struggle and the Chinese attitude, the Dalai Lama told Ann Curry, “The struggle is between the power of truth and power of gun. For short term, power of gun may seem much stronger. But in the long run, power of truth is much stronger.” When asked what is the one thing that he would ask world leaders to support the Tibetans, he responded, “Just one word, freedom.”

We are now approaching the end of the term of President Hu Jintao and it is now clear that he is leaving behind a legacy of suppression of Tibetans, lack of foresight to deal with the issue and disregard of avenues that will really lead to stability of the People’s Republic of China and the establishment of a harmonious society. Hu Jintao has failed on Tibet. We will now have to see how the new leadership that will emerge out of the 18th Party Congress will fare.


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