Dalai Lama is accused over fire ‘protests’

TWENTY-FIVE Tibetans who have set themselves on fire in the past year have been dismissed by a senior Communist Party official as outcasts, criminals and mentally ill people manipulated by the exiled Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader has said he does not encourage self-immolation. However, Chinese officials have sought to portray the wave of such protests – including three this week – as the result of outside orchestration rather local unrest over the suppression of Tibetan religion and culture.

Many of the protesters have been linked to a Buddhist monastery in the Aba prefecture of China’s Sichuan province.

“Some of the suicides are committed by clerics returning to lay life, and they all have criminal records or suspicious activities. They have a very bad reputation in society,” said Wu Zegang, an ethnic Tibetan and top government administrator in Aba.

Mr Wu told reporters in Beijing yesterday the spate of self-immolations were “orchestrated and supported” by the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence forces. He said before setting themselves on fire, those involved shouted “independence for Tibet and other slogans meant to divide the nation”.

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The Dalai Lama has praised those who set themselves on fire and has attributed the protests to what he calls China’s “cultural genocide” in Tibet. But he has also said he did not encourage such protests.

At a meeting on Wednesday of the Tibetan delegation to the National People’s Congress in Beijing, a reporter asked whether regional leaders thought the Dalai Lama should set himself on fire too. But Padma Choling, the governor of Tibet said: “No matter who self-immolates, it is an inhuman and immoral act. If the Dalai immolates himself, that’s his business and has nothing to do with me but regardless of who it is, I do not advocate it. ”

The most recent immolations in Aba occurred just days ago. A 32-year-old mother of four set herself alight and died there on Saturday and an 18-year-old identified only as Dorje died of burns on Monday.

The official Xinhua News Agency confirmed the immolation of another woman on Saturday in neighbouring Gansu province, but said the 20-year-old student may have been pushed to suicide because of pressure at school and a head injury. Local officials in Gansu were quoted as saying Tsering Kyi had been hospitalised after hitting her head on a radiator and suffered fainting spells before taking her own life.

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Xinhua said her school marks started to slip, “which put a lot of pressure on her”.

China has confirmed 25 such deaths, but Tibetan rights advocates say more people have killed themselves by self-immolation in the past year.