Three Tibetans recently set themselves on fire in Qinghai and Gansu provinces to protest Chinese Communist Party rule, bringing the number of such incidents to 81. A rights group said that China’s crackdown in the region is exacerbating the situation and leading to more self-immolations.
Tamding Dorjee, 29, of Qinghai was the latest person to self-immolate, burning himself in front of a government building in the Rebkong area with his hands in prayer, according to the International Campaign for Tibet rights group, also known as Save Tibet.
Also in Rebkong, 18-year-old Lubhum Gyal set himself on fire and died on Thursday. On Friday, 23-year-old former Tibetan Buddhist monk Tamdrin Kyab burned in Luchu township in Gansu province, according to the rights group.
“The Tibetans who are self-immolating–now in more rapid succession–have clearly not been dissuaded by the security buildup or other means of official intimidation,” Save Tibet President Mary Beth Markey said in a statement on Saturday.
“Nonetheless, the authorities seem to be betting that further oppression will cower or exhaust the will of future self-immolators.”
Markey said she believes the immolations will persist and likely get worse unless some corrective action is taken to end Chinese repression.
“I think we all acknowledge that more Tibetans will be prepared to take the agonizing action of self-immolation. And that is a terrible and unacceptable calculation,” she said.
Chinese authorities on Friday told Tibetans in Rebkong not to go to the homes of those who set themselves on fire, according to Save Tibet.
“They also said that if monks go to pray for self-immolators, monasteries will be closed down, and that the families of self-immolators will be punished,” Save Tibet said.
But in defiance of local officials’ warnings, more than 1,000 people gathered where Tamding Dorjee set himself on fire to cremate his body.
Tibetan exiles have called on those living inside of China to put an end to the self-immolations because they are against the movement’s practice of nonviolence. However, they blamed the Chinese regime for implementing policies that abuse the rights of Tibetans living inside the country, saying such policies pose an existential threat to Tibetan culture, religion, and language.
On Friday, thousands gathered in the Tibetan exile town of Dharamshala in India to express condolences over the recent spate of immolations, according to the pro-Tibet Phayul newspaper. It said in seven days, there were seven self-immolations in China.
Lobsang Sangay, a leader in Dharamshala, said the ceremony is necessary to express solidarity with Tibetans inside China.
“We hold the prayer services in honor of the self-immolators’ families, Tibetans in prison and for those Tibetans who have lost their lives for Tibet,” he told Phayul.
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