End Self-Immolations, Exiled Tibetan Leaders Say

September 28, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Tibetan representatives take part in the Second Special General meeting of Tibetans in Dharamshala on September 25, 2012.  (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/GettyImages)
Tibetan representatives take part in the Second Special General meeting of Tibetans in Dharamshala on September 25, 2012. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/GettyImages)

After more than 50 self-immolations in Tibet against harsh Chinese rule, exiled Tibetan leaders said Friday that the practice needs to stop and non-violent forms of protest should be adopted instead.

Exiles met in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala for four days and at the conclusion of the gathering on Friday urged fellow Tibetans in China to end self-immolations. Many of the dozens who set themselves on fire since March 2009 were young Tibetan monks and nuns in Sichuan Province and the neighboring Tibetan Autonomous Region.

“The meeting expressed grave concern over the tragic self-immolations by Tibetans and urged Tibetans inside Tibet not to take drastic actions,” reads a statement from the exiled Central Tibetan Administration.

Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay has said that the practice is against the movement’s commitment to nonviolence against the Chinese regime, but said it still underscored the grave situation that many Tibetans face in China.

“We Tibetans have a small population and each life is precious,” Penpa Tsering, a spokesman for the Tibetan exile parliament, told The Associated Press. At least 41 Tibetans have died in self-immolations.

But at the same time, the Chinese regime needs to put an end to its hard line policies that target Tibetans and should take responsibility for the situation’s deterioration in the future, including the destruction of Tibetan religion, culture, and language, the Tibetan exiles said.

In recent months, Chinese authorities have escalated their crackdown in Tibetan areas, even going so far as to cut off electricity and telecommunications to prevent the spread of information about the self-immolations. Last month, a resident in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa described the city to Radio Free Asia as a “large prison,” with throngs of Chinese security forces everywhere, checkpoints, and body-scanners.

Some Tibetans have also been beaten or received long jail terms, including a prominent monk who got a seven-year term for spreading information about self-immolations. Earlier this month, it was reported that a 17-year-old Tibetan girl who was beaten by Chinese authorities was sentenced to three years in jail for handing out fliers.

The Central Tibetan Administration “pledged to make utmost efforts in getting global support to fulfill the wishes of Tibetans inside Tibet” to enable “the restoration of freedom,” the statement reads. 

One way the Administration plans on trying to accomplish this is garnering support from the international community to resume dialogue between Tibetans and the Chinese regime.

These talks, the statement said, “stalled due to lack of positive response from the Chinese government resulting in the resignation of the Tibetan envoys.”

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