Tibetan tried for aiding self-immolation is jailed

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A TIBETAN man was jailed for 13 years yesterday by a Chinese court which found him guilty of encouraging a monk to burn himself in protest at Beijing policy in Tibet and parts of China with a Tibetan majority.

The sentence was being seen as part of a Communist Party clampdown on self-immolations by Tibetans who reject Beijing’s authority.

A court in the north-west province of Qinghai jailed the man, who is said to be one of 70 people detained in the province’s ethnic Tibetan areas.

Beijing has recently stepped up efforts to blame the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for protests in which nearly 100 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have set themselves on fire since 2009. Yesterday’s sentence is a sign new Chinese leaders installed in November are not easing up on the Tibet issue despite the protests and international condemnation. The protesters are calling for Beijing to allow greater religious freedom and the return from exile in India of the Dalai Lama.

Communist troops occupied the Himalayan region in 1951. Beijing claims it has been part of China for centuries but Tibetans say it was independent for much of that time. The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 as Chinese troops crushed resistance.

The official Xinhua News Agency claimed 12 of those detained had been arrested.

Beijing now considers self-immolation a crime, and aims to stamp it out by charging anyone involved with murder. The authorities have also sealed off areas to prevent information getting out, arrested protesters’ friends and seized satellite TV dishes. Despite that, the pace of self-immolations accelerated in November as the ruling Communists held a pivotal leadership transition.

Beijing has blamed the burnings on hostile foreign forces who want China to relinquish control of Tibet.