/ 11 October 2011

China assails Dalai Lama over self-immolations

China criticised the Dalai Lama on Tuesday for not denouncing a string of self-immolations by monks protesting for religious freedom in Tibetan parts of China, calling his stance a violation of Buddhist principles.

Seven young men in ethnically Tibetan parts of China’s southwestern Sichuan province have set themselves on fire since March in opposition to religious controls by Beijing, which labels their exiled spiritual leader a violent separatist.

“After the incidents the Dalai Lama clique did not condemn this extreme behaviour, and actually openly embellished and played it up, and even asked all kinds of people to follow the example,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin told reporters at a regular briefing.

“We believe adopting such means that harm monks to pursue separatist aims is masked violent terrorist behaviour that violates moral norms and Buddhist doctrine, including Tibetan Buddhist teachings,” Liu said.

The latest young men to set themselves on fire were Choepel (19) and Khayang (18), former Buddhist monks at the Kirti monastery in Sichuan’s Aba prefecture, the London-based advocacy group Free Tibet said on Friday, citing sources in the area.

Earlier last week, a Tibetan monk set himself alight in a market near the monastery in the province, which is next to what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region.

China in August jailed three monks for their involvement in the March self-immolation by another monk named Phuntsog, which spurred a crackdown and the month-long detention of about 300 Tibetan monks.

At least three of the seven monks who set themselves on fire are believed to have died.

More protests
Monks from the Kirti monastery also participated in protests that hit Tibetan areas of China in March 2008, after demonstrations in Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet, were suppressed and gave way to deadly violence aimed at non-Tibetans.

Liu said religious activities in China’s Tibetan autonomous regions are being “conducted normally”, and reiterated China’s policy of managing religious activities “according to law to maintain normal social and religious order”.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Communist troops marched in in 1950. It says that rule has bought much needed development to a poor and backward region.

Beijing and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, who says he wants autonomy and not independence for Tibet, have argued lately about what should happen when he dies. Beijing says he has to reincarnate, but the Dalai Lama has questioned whether this tradition should continue.

Tibetans fear that China will use the thorny issue of the Dalai Lama’s religious succession to split the movement, with one new Lama named by exiles and one by China after his death.

The Dalai Lama lives in exile in India. — Reuters