What are your thoughts on the self-immolations in Tibet?

Video grab image of nun Palden Choetso on fire on 3 November 2011.

Video grab image of nun Palden Choetso on fire on 3 November 2011. Photographer unknown

By Lobsang Wangyal

MCLEOD GANJ, India, 15 March 2012

Tibetans in Tibet have reacted to China’s repression and the severe restrictions on religious and cultural freedom in an extreme way, by self-immolation. Twenty-eight people have set themselves on fire since 2009, 16 of them in 2012 alone. All of them, before and during the act, called for freedom in Tibet and for China to let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet. At least 17 have died, and the whereabouts and current status of the others remain unknown.

The Kalon Tripa (Tibetan political leader-in-exile), Lobsang Sangay, has said that the self-immolations signify an emphatic rejection of the empty promises made by Chinese hard-liners. He said that the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration have always discouraged drastic actions such as self-immolation, but due to China’s treatment of Tibetans as second-class citizens, Tibetans are left with no choice and are driven to such extreme action.

Tibetan Parliament-in-exile says that the situation in Tibet is urgent, and that it is not fit to comment on whether the act of self-immolation is right or wrong, violent or non-violent.

China blames the exile Tibetan leadership for instigating the self-immolations in a bid to split Tibet from China. The Chinese authorities have described the self-immolations as “terrorism in disguise”.

The international community — the governments, the United Nations, and other rights groups — have chosen to turn away from the continued tragedy in Tibet. The question Tibetans ask is, how many more lives need to be lost for the world to pay attention to the Tibetan issue.

Why are Tibetans setting themselves on fire? Secondly, how long can the world look away while Tibet is burning? And thirdly, who will have the responsiblity for the loss of these lives, and those that may occur in future?

What are your thoughts on the self-immolations in Tibet?

Have your say!

There are 15 comments so far.

  1. 15.
    Trish says:on 20 July 2012 at 5:01 am

    I plead with Tibetan people- please do not do this.

    I understand things are desperate in your country but we need you to endure these trials so that you can help to rebuild your culture when the time comes.

    You need to have children and teach them your culture. You need to fight small battles and large ones. I understand things are terrible in your country right now, however please have faith. There are so many of us in other countries who support you.

    It is you who taught us that everything changes- the wheel will turn one day and when it does we will need you!

  2. 14.
    Aulryk Arshien says:on 23 June 2012 at 12:39 am

    The Han Chinese, generally speaking of course, via the regime of the People’s Republic of China are committed to the slow annihilation of what they see as “the barbaric” culture of Tibet. Their attitude is not unlike white Americans toward the Native American population in the 1800s. This slow genocide / assimilation campaign and being forced to live among people who literally wish you dead is certainly more than some people can bear. Whereas Palestinians living under similar conditions may opt to become suicide bombers, it seems this trend of self-immolation among Tibetans is due to it being the one last choice they can make in a society that does all it can to make all its members powerless even to act individually.

    In fact there are numerous cases of Chinese taking the same action as a last stand, as if to say to the communist “authorities,” I am alive and I am a person and can prove it if only by my ability to end my existence in your wretched prison. Contrary to so-called modern people’s thinking there is “evil” in the world, and it is embodied by such regimes as the CCP. Hence, self-immolation should be respected and honoured as a way for those who could no longer bear the oppression of the society in which they have been forced to live.

    Personally, I pray for the successful passage of these souls to a place where they may again materialize in a place not under such heavy oppression by evil. Theirs is both an understandable and rational response to oppression.

    However I also see it as a kind of defeat. If one could stay and bear it longer and live and speak in defiance of the oppressor, it would thwart the evil will and wishes being imposed upon them. Yet these immolations might awaken something akin to sympathy or at least shock among their oppressors. And the Chinese “lose face.”

    I only could bear living and working in China for about 9 months before I had to escape, and I do mean literally escape. But I as a foreigner had both means and ability to do so. These people do not. I totally understand these people, may they find rest and peace and real love.

  3. 13.
    Mary says:on 3 June 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I am saddened that Tibetans have to revert to self immolations in order to reach out to the world. I feel extremely sad for the mother of three whom burnt herself. What will happen to her children? Where is her responsibility towards her children? Saddened and realising we can never fully comprehend the hardship and emotional pain felt by the individual experiencing first hand of the harsh life in Tibet; however I cannot encourage nor support self immolations for the various reasons.

    1. When one kills oneself in the name of Tibet; many more Tibetans will suffer after such an act; not that they are not already suffering. The Chinese Army will not reflect on why the need for self immolations for they know the reasons too well but rather how, and actions needed to prevent such an act from happening again through harsher means.

    2. His Holiness The Dalai Lama will again be targetted by the Chinese Army as the culprit for the unrest in Tibet. His Holiness whom teaches on compassion and patient; his people whom cries for his return to Tibet, why are they not practicing what His Holiness is teaching? I want to believe His Holiness does not support self immolations too though saddened by their act.

    3. Motivation again comes to mind. Was the act of self immolations carried out in the name of Freedom for Tibet or was it simply an act of suicide?

    4. If self immolations can produce miracles for Tibet than by all means please continue with the act.

    5. However the act of self immolations itself is negative for killing is wrong; causing the arrest and torture of many innocent Tibetans after such an act in my opinion is wrong.

    At the end of the day, the departed leave for a new rebirth but the living will continue to suffer, their freedom will again be restricted for mistrust has again been raised in Tibet.

  4. 12.
    tenzin thonpa says:on 1 June 2012 at 6:19 pm

    The nations of the world are silent on Tibet because,
    1.They all want to do business with China and get a share of its record GDP.
    2.Many nations need China’s strategic support on issues that benefit them personally.
    3.Everyone realizes that the UNO is a mute spectator as long as China can veto any resolution on Tibet at the Security Council.
    4.Majority of the world public is still oblivious to the situation inside Tibet because of absence of any media presence inside Tibet.
    5.General perception is there is nothing MATERIAL to gain from supporting Tibet and hence nations are not much interested.
    Hence now the whole world will have to watch the horor unfolding in Tibet and will have to stomach the horor of watching human beings burn themselves or take notice and accept that HUMAN RIGHTS is the primary and fundamental foundation of human civilization and actually DO something about it.

  5. 11.
    Jampa says:on 5 May 2012 at 5:44 pm

    It is the utmost desperate act to respond to the communism towards one’s fundamental rights.

  6. 10.
    sonam lhamo says:on 3 May 2012 at 12:53 am

    Such heart aches act could change the situation or not is another case…this painful prescribed only a drop of bleeding ocean….which been continuously mourning in Tibet!!! helpless situation makes us to take such fearful steps to make the world know how distress we are though world don’t see the distress message he wish to deliver but a burning fire!!! Our heart crys when we see this but the one need to feel this is still chilling the wound they created to US.

    Chinese govt. need to come forward and understands the desperate we are in that’s what we want….else who don’t want to live peaceful…within the people whom we love, and among all in our ancestors land…we respect the people of Chinese concern to us…alas only if they stand one and change the history….otherwise time is not far where only red Chinese will remain. I deeply pray the world understands what happening before its too late. Message to Everyone who have power and can change the world…..Chinese people come together and make change before humanness disappear…….Save Tibet.

  7. 9.
    gome says:on 10 April 2012 at 2:17 am

    with all respect ,its not helpful,

  8. 8.
    Medicinehorse says:on 28 March 2012 at 8:49 am

    It hurts me to see things get this bad. But, I have deep respect and understanding. These persons who burn, are very precious jewels. I honor their sacrifice. Last year, here in my small town in America, a man immolated himself in protest against corruption in local courts. Google:Thomas Ball, Keene, NH, USA…. I understand.

    May Buddhas’ Blessings grace your lives. You are not alone. You are not forgotten.
    May the 3 Jewels continue to be our refuge. Peace.

  9. 7.
    Tendar Tsering says:on 23 March 2012 at 6:05 pm

    China is paying 5000 Yuan if anyone informs the Officials of any potential self-immolation, but China is not willing to change their policies for Tibetans which is the real root cause of these self-immolations.

    Of course, life is precious and if given a choice, of course every one wants to lead a happy life, but the Chinese policies in Tibet forcing the Tibetans to end up their lives in an effort to save others’ lives… “other before self”

  10. 6.
    Bill Whatcott says:on 19 March 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Self immolation is morally wrong in my opinion. As a Christian I believe all human life is valuable and should be lived to the fullest. Many Christians have chosen martyrdom rather than renounce their faith and many Christians die in present day communist China under torture and by execution. However, we Christians make the Chinese do it, rather than do it to ourselves. I fear when a Chinese communist party member watches the evening news and sees a young Tibetan going up in flames from self immolation, he thinks, “good, there is one less activist we need to execute.”

  11. 5.
    terry reis kennedy says:on 19 March 2012 at 12:36 am

    I hope people will stop doing this. It serves no purpose except to create pain for those who do it, for those who are left helpless watching this, and for those loved ones left…..

  12. 4.
    Brigitte Graefin von Bulow says:on 16 March 2012 at 2:33 pm

    My heart breaks every time I hear of yet another Tibetan, often so very young, seeing no way out, dying by means of self-immolation. Their suffering is so immense in a country which is daily more deprived of any freedom and on the verge of entire extinction at the hands of the Chinese Communist Regime.

    The saddest thing of all is that the world does not seem to care, to really step in, to tell China that they must immediately stop their terror in Tibet, otherwise the world shall *boycott them, the Chinese*: no more deals, no more production, no more trade.

    But alas, the world is not courageous enough to take serious steps…unfortunately, the world is still in the hands of cowards and self serving politicians….(except the few who have spoken out now for Tibet and have shown wisdom and compassion)… and as long people with no interest other than their own wellbeing are around, Tibetans have only but one choice to be heard and that is self-immolation.
    In other words: all Governments who refuse to help the Tibetans, are guilty of murder.

  13. 3.
    Ilona Selke says:on 16 March 2012 at 11:53 am

    First of all, may all those souls that set their bodies on fire be quickly released of their body temples. May their next incarnation be free of the memory of pain and may they reap benefits for their sacrifice for the benefit of the whole.

    I am sure the world will listen …. Their lives will not have been in vain.
    The ways in which the West or other countries will help, maybe not come in obvious ways, but rather in indirect ways…but it will be done. Most likely through economic political moves.

    May all the TIBETANS keep dreaming of the strength of their soul, their purity, and maintain that ability wherever they go.In this lifetime or another.

    • 2.
      Duong Marie says:on 17 March 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Je rejoint cs commm tres vrai … etant 1 peuple non-violent subissent leurs bourreaux … Oui faut du courage de s’immoler une souffrance humaine … que les gouvernements entendent leurs sacrifices et mettent la pression a pekin. D’arreter leurs genocides de ces Tibetains … Vivent sous pressions repressions .. . sans aide exterieurs sont complissent de pekin … ont les mains taches de sang d’un noble peuple … honte a ces gouvernements … Tashi delek Free Tibet.

  14. 1.
    James Wasklewicz says:on 16 March 2012 at 5:55 am

    How in the world can you say “stop” to a religious thought that is thousands of years old, and they as priests and nuns are screaming on deaf ears, and they know it …

    The only way they think they can be heard is extreme pain and death … Just think how much courage it takes to set yourself ablaze … I have no words except to say a silent prayer to the picture posted …

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