How Many Self-Immolating Tibetans Does It Take to Make a Difference?

Answer: Keep counting

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Niranjan Shrestha / AP

Exile Tibetan participate in a candle light vigil in solidarity with fellow Tibetans who have self-immolated, in Katmandu, Nepal, Feb. 13, 2013.

On Wednesday morning in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, a Tibetan monk drenched in gasoline appeared in front of a Buddhist stupa popular among Tibetans and set himself aflame. At the time of writing, the young man, thought to be in his early 20s, is in critical condition. According to some reports, his fiery protest marks a grim milestone: it’s the 100th such self-immolation by a Tibetan to happen since 2009 (others suggest it’s the 99th or the 101st).

Whatever the ghastly metric, the act has become the signature tactic in recent years of Tibetans voicing their frustrations with Chinese rule. It carries a haunting moral cry no suicide bomber can match. When one downtrodden Tunisian set himself alight in December 2010, the spark of his despair and anger kindled uprisings that swept across the Arab world. Yet, 100 Tibetan self-immolations — and many deaths — later, little has changed.

(PHOTOS: The Dalai Lama: Six Decades of Spiritual Leadership)

Part of the problem is where these protests occur. The overwhelming majority takes place within the borders of China, either in Tibet proper or in Tibetan areas of neighboring Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces. Media access is heavily controlled and much of what we know comes from advocacy groups based outside. A white paper titled “Why Tibet Is Burning,” released last month by an institute affiliated with the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, identifies by name 98 Tibetans who carried out self-immolations in China since February 2009. Many of those choosing to set themselves on fire are young teenagers and 20-somethings. They are farmers and aspiring clerics, nomads and students. In a foreword to the study, Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Tibet’s exiles, urges Tibetans to “not to resort to drastic actions, including self-immolations, because life is precious.” But the study goes on to point the finger at Beijing:

The reason [for all the self-immolations] lies in China’s massive policy failure in Tibet over the course of more than 60 years of its rule. The revolution that is brewing in Tibet is driven by political repression, cultural assimilation, social discrimination, economic marginalization and environmental destruction.

China, of course, doesn’t see it this way. The likelihood of a Tibetan revolution — or even the rioting of not so long ago — is dwarfed by the specter of a Beijing crackdown. Authorities have already started detaining and jailing Tibetans they claim are “inciting” self-immolations; one such swoop earlier this month in the rugged province of Qinghai netted 70 suspects. Quoted by Chinese state media, a local official echoed China’s longstanding critique of any Tibetan dissent: “The Dalai Lama clique masterminded and incited the self-immolations. Personal information, such as photos of the victims, were sent overseas to promote the self-immolations.”

(MORE: As Tibetans Burn Themselves to Protest Chinese Rule, Communists in Beijing Stress Happiness in Tibet)

The Dalai Lama, the increasingly withdrawn spiritual leader of Tibetans-in-exile, has long promoted a “middle way” of dialogue and nonviolent resistance, and has also urged against Tibetans carrying out self-immolations. According to a BBC report last year, the steady toll of self-immolations was being interpreted by some angry Tibetans overseas as a sign that the Dalai Lama’s timid, largely failed policies of engagement ought to be given up. “Violence could now be the only option,” said one influential Tibetan activist to the BBC.

That’s a scenario that could spell even more trouble for Tibetan aspirations — resistance to Beijing has been met ruthlessly with arrests and media blackouts. No foreign government would risk their relationship with China over tacit support for an aspirational and unlikely Tibetan nation. The governments of India and Nepal, which play awkward hosts to generations of Tibetan exiles and dissidents, routinely crack the whip on Tibetan activists, breaking up protests and monitoring exile activity. Geopolitical conflagrations elsewhere — from the Senkaku Islands contested by Tokyo and Beijing to the South China Sea to NATO’s imbroglio in Afghanistan — have cornered the international community’s attention.

(MORE: As China Readies for Transition, 7 Tibetan Self-Immolations in 7 Days)

What’s left then is a lonely struggle. China touts the wealth and development it’s bringing to the Himalayan plateau, but Tibetans abroad see the hollowing out of their homeland, which faces a steady influx of Han Chinese settlers. Here’s the white paper from Dharamsala once more:

[Tibetans] look on with alarm and fear as Chinese settlers stream into Tibet, taking away Tibetan jobs, land and their very future — and in the process, transforming Tibetan towns and cities into so many Chinatowns … At the same time the Tibetan people see massive development activities undertaken on their land that bring little or no benefit to them and aimed, instead, to cart away Tibetan natural resources to a resource-hungry China. In fact the policies of the Chinese Communist Party demonstrate to the Tibetan people that China wants Tibet but not the Tibetan people.

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44 comments
MoolbLeinad
MoolbLeinad

When a Buddhist monk in South Vietnam named Thich Quang Duc protested the regime of former Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, photos of his public suicide were splashed across the front pages of Western newspapers in Europe and the US, introducing the In the 1960s, when self-immolation suicides of Buddhist monks caught the world’s attention, who knew that 50 years later similar suicides by Tibetans would go more or less unnoticed by the world’s media. In this well-connected Internet age, surely the images of the Tibetan suicides should be going viral and causing the West — and Taiwan — to react.

Is that the West’s response this time? What a difference 50 years can make.

Outside of Tibet and in the Tibetan protest community worldwide, the hundreds of self-immolation acts seem hardly to have registered in Washington or London — or Tokyo or Taipei. Have these suicides been in vain?

Dan Bloom is a freelance writer in Taiwan.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2013/03/13/2003556936

Hongnong
Hongnong

oamuwtikcus - Why do you have such a difficult-sounding name? As s student of English, I tried google it but found nothing. It would appear that your have taken upon yourself the task of leading your people to fight against the 50 Cent Army. Yours is the $1 Army!? Obviously much better paid. Anyone can comment, and I certainly believe you too can. The only thing I ask of you is this : please check your grammar and "syntax".

oamuwtikcus
oamuwtikcus

Ladies and Gentlemen. Please be informed that China's Wu Mao Party, also known as the 50 Cent Party, is now actively engaged in spreading pro-China propaganda on Time Magazine. These individuals are paid web commenters who surf the web under the guise of regular people and seek to sway public opinion by presenting unrelenting pro-China views to counter and overcome any negative ones. They also routinely blast any critics or opponents of the Communist Party of China.


At home the 50 Cent Party activities amounts to something a little short of "thought policing." Real Chinese have grown accustomed to the constant barrage of propaganda 'white noise.' Overseas however, effects of 50 Cent 'astro-turfing' can be worse. Unaware Americans are being subjected to Chinese psychological warfare. It is something short of an act of war, but they are direct acts of sabotage as they ruin the overall quality and purpose of web browsing. In order to counter the 50 Cent Army, responsible netizens should create as much anti-Communist Party of China buzz as possible whenever they come across posts by suspected 50 Cent'ers. Be aware they often adopt western sounding names but sport oddly mangled syntax and strangely euphoric yet similarly pre-scripted lines like how they love the "Chinese people" or "lived in China for a while." At best whoever pays the 50 Cent'ers will see their program is not working which could lead to it's demise. At worst you can get a 50 Cent grunt to flip out and lash out at us "western idiots" and "seh gwai lo's." They don't get paid their standard per post fee for overly negative ones that may end up alienating their targets.

Furthermore Wu Mao 50 Cent Army posts in certain cases express messages of hatred, like "hate the Dali Lama" or hate "civil rights activist terrorists." 50 Cent Army posters have a difficult time presenting the soft sell in these politically sensitive instances. They are easy to recognize as a result and can be easily baited to reveal themselves.

The point is to make it as difficult as possible to do their jobs. We can't ignore them like the Chinese people do or like them we will find these people will NOT go away. Granted the Chinese people have no other choice, but we must exercise our still existing power to do something before we find ourselves in the same boat.

Public information on the 50 Cent Party/Army can be readily found on wikipedia and around the "free" net. Truth, justice and peace.


DanielAnderson
DanielAnderson

" “Violence could now be the only option,” said one influential Tibetan activist to the BBC."

I shook my head and laughed at this statement. Just give China one more reason to put down a rebellion that was doomed to fail from the start.

LeksangChoezin
LeksangChoezin

We Tibetans across the globe have invested
in democracy and non-violence in their 50-year struggle for autonomy 
but have not got adequate international support form the world. Tibetan movement remains nonviolent and that the people who have self-immolated harmed only themselves. None of them have tried to harm Han chineses. My parents had to leave our home and escape into the
mountains when the Chinese communist soldiers rampaged
through the village, destroying monasteries and killing
anybody who resisted. We lost everything our home, our village, those who
remained behind in Tibet suffered so much torture and
humiliation that many have committed suicide. Tibet will die if we do not continue to support it. Tibetans people are not afraid of the Chinese bullies, and tortue. We Tibetans youth believe that if the peaceful Tibetan struggle turns violent, it would 
be a catastrophic tragedy for not only Tibetans and Chinese, but also 
for the whole world, as Tibet would then have become an epitome of the 
failure of non-violence as a means of freedom struggle.

LamSam
LamSam

Young, religious, extreme. Does that sound familiar to you? The real culprits are the inciters behind them

samdup
samdup

As Albert Einstein said  "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

It is terribly sad that the politicians, mainstream media and world population at large chooses to conveniently look the other way in fear of offending China.

BhoepaBhumo
BhoepaBhumo

Its not stupid for the Tibetans in Tibet taking this extreme step to burn oneself, neither am i encouraging. But we Tibetan here outside the Tibet knows well and can feel their feeling that's making them to take such steps. They are doing this because their right to live is denied and are still facing the hardship under the  Oppressive Chinese Government. It also shows that no matter how much the Chinese fabricating the Truth of the Tibetan People and History, the Chinese Policy are total Failure. It was never meant for Any good. 

Tibetans who have immolated in Tibet could have used the tactics to burn few chinese together along or used some other ways, but they never adopted such. Because we never believed in any forms of Violence. 

worldpeace
worldpeace

the last breath of tibetans in tibet...you guys can not feel it coz you are not there in tibet and you are not the one who is in fire. Dont think that self immolation is a protest...it is not a protest..it is out of chinese ruling over tibetan wants...tibetan culture, religious, language, tradition and so on.. tibet needs you..chineses are not bad people, only the government..we the world have to pressure towards chinese government not the chinese people..there are so much innocent like one month baby. lets speak together for free tibet and free china and free world.

MaximoHudson
MaximoHudson

The world would be a better place if all those who used self-immolation as a form of public political expression had adopted a homeless animal instead. -mh

sunfeiyang13
sunfeiyang13

If enough Iroquois set themselves on fire, would the USA give New York City back to them?  You can replace Iroquois/USA/NYC with the Aborigines and Australia too, or the Inuit and Canada......


The West is always adept at pointing out the issues of others but blind to its own past.

DarioImpini
DarioImpini

China being the country with a questionable human rights record, and a culture which seems to be somewhat disconnected from the misfortunes of strangers on the street, I'm not sure "self-immolation" would have the impact intended, and the record of 100 immolators with no significant change in policy towards Tibet would seem to bear that out.

If I were to set myself on fire to make some kind of statement for change, I would want to make sure the people receiving the message are receptive and compassionate toward human suffering before I did that.  Cos burning pointlessly is... pointless.  And painful.

Jungshi
Jungshi

Suicide is not the only answer my friends! Life is a challenge for every one, so stop the burning and start living right. You have a whole generation of youngsters and kids who are adopting very bad examples. Be a macho Man!!!!!


rorywong654
rorywong654

Like wild West in America during the United State nation built

geogeely
geogeely

If people are dumb enough to burn themselves to death, I say let them. Stupid way to protest!

oamuwtikcus
oamuwtikcus

@HongnongThe 50 Cent Party are Internet commentators (网络评论员網絡評論員, wǎngluò pínglùn yuán) hired by the government of the People's Republic of China (both local and central) or the Communist Party to post comments favorable towards party policies in an attempt to shape and sway public opinion on various Internet message boards.[1][2] The commentators are said to be paid fifty cent of RMB for every post that either steers a discussion away from anti-party or sensitive content on domestic websites, bulletin board systems, and chatrooms,[3] or that advances the Communist party line

LeksangChoezin
LeksangChoezin

@DanielAnderson I have a one question for you. why Taliban are not scare of Americans? If tibetans have nothing to lose anything.   why we should scare of Chinese Army?  we lost our freedom, we lost everything. Tibetans rebellion is just beginning my friends. 

LamSam
LamSam

@LeksangChoezin then your parents must've been part of the fief owning ruling class who did skin peeling, eye gouching, slave beating, limb chopping....... Otherwise, they would've nothing at all lose.

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@LeksangChoezin Dich head, do you even realize the word "Tibet" itself is a Han Chinese pronunciation.  You should call yourself something else if you don't like anything that is related to Han Chinese.  Instead of calling yourself Tibetan, may be you should start calling yourself uncle Sam's kwok zucker, this will draw a lot of world attention.

By the way, contrary to your bullzhit about the plight of Tibetans living in many different provinces in China, they are living extremely better than kwok zucking kwok zuckers like you who rely on kwok zucking for a living.

LeksangChoezin
LeksangChoezin

@LamSam  Han chineses are evil. you guys have no compasionate toward fellow human beings. Example evil people from ancient times Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China from 221 BC to 210 BC. He was paranoid, brutal, cruel and sadistic. He improvised and massacred his people. In his first year in power, over 120,000 families were forced to relocate from their homes. He burned almost all books and writings in China and had hundreds of scholars beheaded and buried alive. He improvised his people, farmers in particular, by raising taxes. At one point, a million men were put to work as forced labor to build 4,700 miles of roads. He created walls and other architects that paved the way for the Great Wall of China, but hundreds of thousands were worked, starved to death and murdered. Qin was obsessed of trying to become immortal, when scientists and scholars failed to find a way, he had 480 of them buried alive. Even in death, he was afraid that he would be attacked. He ordered a 3 mile wide mausoleum to be built that required 700,000 people, most of them were killed in the process. It is possible that he killed over 1 million people. Qin died in September 210 BC. and last but not least please stop eating Tibetan dogs in tibet. thank you.

ATibetanShepherd
ATibetanShepherd

@LamSam 

I respect your concerns of Chinese government being cheated by Inciters. you might be a paid or patriotic Chinese shit who keeps on looking and spying all around. You must understand why Chinese communist party is cheating all including you with empty words. A little knowledge is always dangerous and you are proving it here,since you don't know the real condition in Tibet and still barking here no matter billions of people never heed at your shits.....

Informed_Dissent
Informed_Dissent

@LamSam Maybe what is needed is an army of "young, religious, and extreme" to draw attention to Tibet's persecution by China. And it is that. Divine intervention is also probably needed, as was done by a Muslim woman (assisted and protected by Gabriel and Prophet Muhammad) in the recently-published novel "The Prophetess of Islam," by Gary Nelson (Amazon/Kindle). It's a case where fiction shows where reality needs to follow.

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@LamSam You are absolutely right.  The real culprits are media such as Time.  They like to employ American kwok zucking kwok zuckers as writers to badmouth China.  Little do they know they are just Trash that is polluting the native Americans' land.  If it was up to the natives, they would definitely send these trash back to incinerators in Europe.

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@samdup If they look more closely, they will know that you, Dalai lama, and uncle Sam are behind it.

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@DarioImpini you sound like a typical American kwok zucking kwok zucker who has zucked his uncle's kwok one time too many and swallowed one mouthful too much.  Do you realize you have kum ozzing out of your kwok zucking mouth from being full alreay?

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@LeksangChoezinI do not know why you accused the Han Chinese have no compassion?  Didn't they give you a mouthful when you zucked their kwok?

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@Informed_Dissent @LamSam Didn't uncle Sam support you with his limply kwok while you were bending over?  Don't tell me his kwok was too limply to give you a satisfactory support.

ATibetanShepherd
ATibetanShepherd

@SopheapAng

instead of brewing all shit out from your mouth, better be learnt what you think that are right. you are a spoiled Chinese government fellow .. Stand with truth and dignity

LeksangChoezin
LeksangChoezin

@SopheapAng @LeksangChoezin Why i hate Han Chinese? because they killed my Grandparents and my father in front of my eyes. and not only my families but million of Tibetan are torture and brutally killed.   Honestly, we Tibetans are losing compassionate toward Chinese.

SopheapAng
SopheapAng

@ATibetanShepherdInstead of calling yourself a TibetanShepherd, you should call yourself a Tibetan Kwok zucking kwok zucker because the Han Chinese must have forced you to zuck their kwok, they must also have forced you to bend over like a dog too.