BEIJING: China accused the Dalai Lama on Monday of allying with Japanese right-wingers in an island dispute as a way of attacking China and blamed him for glorifying a wave of self-immolations among Tibetans. The comments came as another Tibetan set himself on fire to protest Chinese rule, Tibetan exiles and a rights group said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Dalai Lama’s comments in Japan on the island dispute showed his “reactionary nature” and determination to split China apart under the guise of religion.
“To achieve his separatist goal, he associated with the Japanese right-wing forces. Chinese people despise him for what he did. We are firmly opposed to any country’s providing a stage for him,” Hong said.
Chinese media have said the Dalai Lama called the islands by their Japanese name during a news conference in Yokohama last Monday but an Associated Press review of a tape of the event showed he referred to them only as “the islands.”
On Monday in Okinawa, the Dalai Lama criticized Chinese media for making up a claim that he sided with the Japanese.
Tensions have run high over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, since the Japanese government nationalized some of them in September in a bid to prevent Tokyo’s right-wing governor from buying them. Violent anti-Japanese protests broke out in a number of Chinese cities, and Beijing has sent ships to conduct near-constant patrols near the uninhabited rocks.
Hong also attacked the Dalai Lama for reportedly accusing the Chinese government of failing to investigate the root cause of despair and hopelessness among Tibetans that many say have prompted people to take their lives as a form of protest. China has long accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of inspiring such acts, despite his condemnation of all forms of violence.
“Not only did the Dalai not condemn them, but he actually glorified these acts, which are against the national law and religious principles,” Hong said.
The remarks came as a 24-year-old Tibetan man set himself on fire at a prayer ceremony in Tongren county in western China’s Qinghai province, becoming the seventh person in six days to self-immolate in the region, the rights group Free Tibet said.
Nyingkar Tashi is reported to have died in the protest in which he called out for freedom in Tibet and for the longevity of the Dalai Lama, the group said. A statement from the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, provided similar details.
A Tongren government official who picked up the phone said he could not comment, while Ma Chunyin, head of the Tongren Communist Party Propaganda Department, said he did not know about the reported self-immolation.
Tibet support groups overseas have said the increase in protests in recent days is meant to highlight Tibetan unhappiness with Chinese rule as the country’s leaders hand over power to younger successors at a party congress in Beijing.
“Throughout the 18th Party Congress the new unelected leaders have been reminded on an almost daily basis of Tibetans’ rejection of Chinese rule, and of the terrible failure of policies to cement the occupation,” Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said.
The Dalai Lama fled to India following an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule over Tibet. He denies seeking the region’s independence, saying that he wishes Tibetans to enjoy real autonomy and protection of their traditional Buddhist culture.
Dalai Lama: China Must Probe Self-Immolations
The Dalai Lama is speaking out about the growing number of Tibetans setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.
The Tibetan spiritual leader said Monday China needs to conduct a “serious investigation” into the self-immolations rather than just place the blame on him.
The comments were first reported by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency.
At least 70 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest since February of 2009, including seven just last week. Fifty-four have died.
Last week in Beijing, the Chinese-appointed vice governor of Tibet, Lobsang Gyaincain, blamed the Dalai Lama for the most recent protests.
“External Tibetan forces and the Dalai [Dalai Lama] clique are sacrificing other people’s lives to attain their secret political motives,” said Gyaincain.
Anger over Chinese rule in Tibet sparked new protests Monday in New Delhi. Exiled Tibetans, with their faces painted in the red and yellow colors of the Tibetan flag, charged the Chinese embassy. Several protesters were detained.
The self-immolations and new protests – including several last Friday in Tibetan areas of China – coincide with China’s 18th Party Congress in Beijing and the country’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition.
China has long accused Tibetan exiles of self-immolating as part of a separatist struggle, denouncing them as terrorists.
VOA’s Tibetan service reported last month the offer of cash rewards in China’s Gannan prefecture, called Kanlho prefecture by Tibetans. Posters promised $8,000 to anyone who provides information “on the people who plan, incite to carry out, control and lure people to commit self-immolation.”
Dalai Lama urges Japan lawmakers to visit Tibet
TOKYO: The Dalai Lama urged Japanese lawmakers on Tuesday to visit Tibet to find out the reasons for a spate of self-immolations, after Beijing accused him of instigating the deadly protests against Chinese rule.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was addressing around 130 parliamentarians including Shinzo Abe, a former premier who is seen as a favourite to retake the role in forthcoming general elections.
The welcome rolled out for the Dalai Lama — albeit a non-governmental one — earned Japan a rebuke from Beijing for giving succour to a man they say is a dangerous separatist.
“I request some parliamentary groups, ‘Visit Tibet’,” including areas where Tibetans have died in “very sad” self-immolations, the Dalai Lama told the meeting in Japan’s diet, or parliament.
“Perhaps the (Chinese) authorities, leaders of China, I think, may get the true picture” of self-immolations if foreign lawmakers report what is actually happening there, the 77-year-old added.
Two Tibetans died in separate self-immolations on Monday, taking to nine the number of people who have set themselves on fire in the last week in protest at Chinese rule.
Reports of their deaths came hours after the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese government seriously to investigate the incidents, saying it is more interested in criticising him than finding the reason behind them.
In response, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei accused the spiritual leader of encouraging the suicides, saying he was sacrificing lives “to achieve his goal of Tibetan independence”.
On Tuesday Hong rounded on Tokyo for giving the saffron-robed monk a platform.
“China is firmly opposed to any country or any person’s supporting the Dalai’s separatist activities in any way,” he said.
“Japanese right-wing forces have been blatantly supporting Dalai’s anti-China separatist activities and interfering in China’s internal affairs, which China strongly condemns.
“The Japanese government has been conniving at the separatist activities of the Dalai Lama and the anti-China activities of Japan’s right-wing, which goes against the principle and spirit of China-Japan strategic relations of mutual benefit.”
The immolations have gained pace in recent months in the run-up to the Communist Party congress, which started on Thursday in Beijing.
Ahead of the Dalai Lama’s speech, Abe, the front-runner in the race to become prime minister in upcoming general elections, called on fellow lawmakers to use diplomatic means to help stop the immolations.
“I promise to continue to support Tibet and do my best to change the situation in Tibet in which (people) are oppressed,” the hawkish conservative said.
The lawmakers adopted a statement strongly urging China to improve its “unlawful suppression of human rights against Tibetans and Uighurs”.
Tokyo formally recognises Beijing’s position that Tibet is a part of China and the government bars its officials from meeting the Dalai Lama during his frequent visits.
Abe’s stance will likely come under scrutiny for its possible implications for Sino-Japanese relations, already strained by a row over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea.
Change in Beijing, Change in Tibet?
With self-immolations continuing, Tibet has become a major challenge for the incoming Chinese leadership. Could changes at the top mean changes for Tibet?
Since 2009 an estimated 71 Tibetans have set themselves on fire inside China (as of this filing), constituting one of the biggest waves of political self-immolations in recent memory. Despite being given scant attention globally, Tibetans have regularly set themselves on fire as a means of protesting China’s repressive policies in the region. The latest incident occurred on Sunday in Gansu province, capping off a particularly deadly week that saw eight self-immolations, along with a major street demonstration by hundreds of Tibetan students in Eastern Tibet. This, of course, all takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing 18th Communist Party Congress.
The reaction from Beijing has not been encouraging. Lobsang Gyaltsen, a delegate at the CPC congress and vice governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region said on November 8, “Overseas separatists entice victims. Those people who support Tibetan independence call their deeds a heroic act and these people heroes.”
“It is actually an act of murder to entice somebody to commit suicide …. The Dalai Lama group is sacrificing other people’s lives to achieve their evil goals,” he added.
Meanwhile, Beijing has also been ratcheting up security in Tibet and has banned foreign journalists from working in the area.
Kate Saunders, the spokesperson for the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, told The Diplomat, “The self-immolations are a dramatic and visible counter to the claims of the Chinese Communist Party to be improving Tibetans’ lives and they are a direct challenge to the Party’s legitimacy in Tibet. The international community should also prevail upon the Chinese leadership to end the military buildup and limit the dominance of the security apparatus, factors that have intensified the dangers in Tibet, increasing the risk of more self-immolations.”
However, with little information leaking out of the Himalayan plateau it difficult for exiled Tibetans to raise global awareness about the Tibetan community’s plight inside China. The self-immolations by Buddhist monks, nuns and ordinary Tibetans help overcome this difficulty because the act’s powerful symbolism attracts international attention and media coverage.
Still, the violent nature of the act makes it controversial within the Tibetan community. For instance, even as the Dalai Lama has labeled the CCP’s Tibet policy “cultural genocide,” he continues to oppose all forms of violence on both sides.
The scene in the exiled Tibetan camp remains grim as over 50 years have passed and negotiations between the two sides have failed to produce a lasting solution to the issue. Meanwhile resentment builds among overseas Tibetans as they increasingly doubt they will see a free Tibet within their lifetimes. Nonetheless, the words of the Dalai Lama continues to lift Tibetans’ spirits, giving them hope that Beijing’s Tibet policy could soften following the leadership transition that is currently underway in Beijing.
“Sixty years of failed Chinese policy has created a cumulative effect that has contributed to a society in which Tibetans’ human rights are routinely abused and Tibetans are marginalized politically, socially and economically. With the number of self-immolations…China’s next leader Xi Jinping faces a challenging task in resolving the crisis in Tibet,” says Dharamsala-based Tsering Choedup of the International Tibet Network.
“It is the right time – with the leadership handover – China realizes the fact that their hardline policy of crushing Tibetan dissidents isn’t yielding results but rather sewing seeds of deep resentment,” the exiled-Tibetan added.
Exiled Tibetans are also calling on the international community to exert greater pressure on the Chinese government in hopes of convincing the latter to concede its current policy has failed and, consequently, agreeing to resume dialogue with Tibetan leaders in an effort to find a sustainable solution.
Despite the self-immolations, however, outside powers have become more reluctant to push the Tibet issue as China has grown more powerful. Although many countries and international human rights groups have issued statements, the Chinese government has continuously ignored them by telling critics not to meddle in its internal affairs.
The United States, however, has defied Beijing’s wishes in an effort to continue championing human rights in Asia, becoming the first country to send a diplomat to the region where most incidents of self-immolation have occurred since the turmoil began. Gary Locke, America’s ambassador to China, visited Aba County in Sichuan in September where he met monks and local residents. Many, however, speculate that the rare trip was orchestrated by Beijing to assuage U.S. doubts over its handling of Tibet. Meanwhile, the Presidential candidates in the recent U.S. election, while regularly discussing China’s economic policies, said little about Beijing’s involvement in Tibet.
Exiled Tibetans have therefore turned their attention to CCP’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping. As the number of self-immolations rise, maintaining stability in the restive Tibetan areas will be a key test for China’s next leader, and Tibetan activists have already challenged him to take “immediate steps towards a just and lasting resolution to the occupation of Tibet, or face greater international condemnation and domestic instability.”
For his own part, the Dalai Lama suggested he is optimistic when he recalled Xi Jinping’s father during an interview with Reuters, describing the elder Xi as, “very friendly, comparatively more open-minded, very nice.” Additionally, Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is a Buddhist herself and hosted the first World Buddhist Forum in China. The Dalai Lama went on to say he was “encouraged” by recent meetings he had with Chinese delegates who claimed they were close to senior Chinese officials.
At the same time, many analysts have cautioned that it is far too early to suppose the incoming leadership will take any bold initiatives on Tibet.
Elliot Sperling, an expert on the history of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations at Indiana University toldThe Diplomat, “In the short term the Chinese leadership is unlikely to loosen its harsh policies in Tibet. Especially when there’s a leadership change occurring, it is incumbent on the incoming leaders to show strength with regard to what are called China’s core interests, one of which is Tibet.”
Still, many in the exile Tibetan community remain hopeful that Beijing could make changes under the new leadership. “These acts of self-immolations directly challenge the leaders in Beijing, telling them that they would rather die than live under such intolerable circumstance when the very survival of Tibetans is under threat. The Chinese policies are worse than the pain inflicted by self-immolation, it is time China take responsibility for this and urgently come forward to stop the situation from getting worse,” says Lobsang Wangyal, an exiled Tibetan entrepreneur living in India.