Tibetan Student Protests Spread

Posted on November 29, 2012

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Chinese police beat up and detain demonstrators following another self-immolation.

AFP
Tibetan Buddhist monks and members of the Tibetan Youth Congress in India’s Siliguri city hold lit candles during a protest against Chinese rule in Tibet, Nov. 28, 2012.

Tibetan student protests against Chinese rule spread Wednesday in Qinghai province as another Tibetan burned himself to death to signal opposition to Beijing’s policy.

Students from the Tsolho Technical School in Chabcha (in Chinese, Gonghe) county in the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture stormed out of their campus and shouted for “freedom” and “Tibetan language rights” in front of the prefecture government center, sources inside Tibet told RFA’s Tibetan service.

Chinese police beat up the students and detained five of them as they used tear gas to keep the crowd at bay, the sources said, without saying how many were involved in the demonstrations, the second protests police cracked down on this week.

“Again, a huge contingent of Chinese police arrived at the site and cracked down on the students,” one source said, citing local residents. “They beat up the students, hurled tear gas at them and there was also some kind of explosives used on the student crowd.”

“Many students were hurt with cut on their heads and body. Five students were detained,” the source said.

Earlier protest

Two days ago, about 1,000 students, led by those from the Tsolho Medical Institute, had protested also in Chabcha over the release of an official Chinese booklet which ridiculed the Tibetan language as irrelevant and condemned the series of self-immolation protests against Beijing’s rule as acts of “stupidity.”

Chinese authorities arrested four of the students after firing warning gunshots and teargas to suppress the demonstration.

Five of 20 wounded students in Monday’s protest were in critical condition in hospital, the sources said.

The students had burned the offending booklets during the protests and called for “equality among nationalities and freedom to study the Tibetan language.”

Aside from opposing Chinese rule, most Tibetan protesters, especially the self-immolators, have pressed for the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India.

New self-immolation

The latest fatal Tibetan self-immolation protest occurred late Tuesday in Sangchu (Xiahe) county in Gansu province, sources said Wednesday, raising the number of burnings signaling opposition to Chinese rule to 87 so far.

Sangay Tashi 18, burned himself around 11 p.m. local time at the country’s Sangkog subdivision and died on the spot, according to the sources.

“While his body was consumed by the fire, he called for the return of Dalai Lama to Tibet and the release of Panchen Lama and other political prisoners,” one exile source told RFA.

The Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second-highest religious figure, was detained by Chinese authorities as a child in 1995 after being named to his position by the Dalai Lama, and another child—widely regarded by Tibetans as a Chinese puppet—was installed in his place.

Mixed response

There has been a mixed response to the self-immolations.

Community leaders and intellectuals in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas in Chinese provinces have staged a hunger strike in sympathy with the burning protests, Kanyag Tsering, an exile monk in India’s hill town Dharamsala, told RFA Wednesday.

Sixty Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Sichuan and Qinghai provinces began a three-day hunger strike accompanied by prayers on Monday “to express their solidarity with the Tibetans who self immolated in protest against the Chinese policy and the Tibetans who are suffering in dark Chinese prisons,”  he said.

“They started their fast at 10 p.m. local time on Monday and ended at 8 a.m. today,” the source said. “The participants were members of local universities, government employees, writers, monks, and businessmen.”

In Qinghai’s Rebgong (Tongren) county, where most of this month’s self-immolations took place, a group of Tibetan lamas (Buddhist leaders) and geshes (teachers) from monasteries as well as government officials and elderly chiefs “collectively and sincerely” appealed in a statement this week for a halt in the self-immolations.

“We, who have true affection for the society and the nationalities and who value human life, beg you with our knees fixed on the earth, our hands clasped to our hearts, and our minds with unblemished clarity, appeal to you to cease desperate acts of self-immolations,” they said in the statement, a copy of which was made available to RFA on Wednesday.

“The priceless human life you have found this time is the product of merits accumulated from the past. Do not waste this precious life as a challenge to face sadness, misery and agony, but rather turn it into a force of will and a means to do great deeds for the wellbeing and benefit of all human beings for many long years,” it said.

“In order to establish peace in the world and genuine security and real harmony in the country, we should look far and wide,” it said.

“If you want to orient your attention toward doing something for the good of the country and its nationalities and good for your town, a momentary shortsighted mindset will not do. To perform acts of great purpose, you need patience.”

In September, more than 400 Tibetan exiles from 26 countries met in India and also called for an end to the self-immolation protests.

Similar expressions of concern from exile figures and from the Dalai Lama himself over the burnings have gone largely unheeded in the past.

RFA

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