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Dalai Lama accuses China of ‘cultural genocide’

Posted by Author on November 8, 2011

The Dalai Lama has blamed the Chinese government’s policy of “cultural genocide” in his native Tibet for a wave of self-immolations that has struck restive Tibetan areas of western China this year.

At least 11 Tibetans, all of them Buddhist nuns, monks or former monks, have set themselves on fire since March to protest against Chinese rule and religious repression, according to human rights and exile groups.

The Chinese government has blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the self-immolations and says he and his “clique” are engaged in “disguised terrorism” and “pursuing separatism by harming people”.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said Beijing’s hardline policy towards any hint of dissent among Tibetans was the real cause of the demonstrations.

“That’s why you see these sad incidents have happened, due to this desperate sort of situation,” he said. “Including many Chinese from mainland China who visit Tibet, they all have the impression things are terrible?.?.?.?Some kind of cultural genocide is taking place.”

In the latest incident, a 35-year-old Tibetan nun called Palden Choetso drank petrol, doused herself with it and then set herself on fire last week in the mainly Tibetan town of Tawu, in Kandze prefecture in China’s Sichuan province.

The nun, who died at the scene, was heard calling out for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return to Tibet and her protest occurred at the same place where a monk set fire to himself in August, according to human rights groups.

Nine Buddhist monks and two nuns have set themselves alight since March, when the first burning prompted a harsh government crackdown and “re-education” programme for monks at the Kirti monastery, where the first incident occurred.

“Tibetans for the last 60 years have peacefully protested even in China in an attempt to not harm anyone,” said Tempa Tsering, a representative of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, northern India. “Tibetans are now torturing themselves to draw attention of the Chinese government, people and rest of the world.”

Most subsequent incidents have been in the same area of Ngaba around the Kirti monastery and overseas campaigners have warned of hundreds of other young Tibetans prepared to carry out similar acts.

At least five of the monks and both nuns have died from their injuries and the whereabouts of most of the others is unknown, human rights groups say.

Self-immolation was almost unheard of among Tibetans until this year, with exile groups recording only one previous example, in 2009, when a monk from the Kirti monastery set himself on fire to protest against the government’s strict religious policies.

The spate of self-immolations this year has prompted the harshest crackdown in Tibetan areas of Sichuan since anti-Chinese riots erupted across the Tibetan plateau in 2008, prompting a huge clampdown and new religious and security policies aimed at stamping out unrest.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch last week wrote a letter to the Chinese government calling on it to carry out a comprehensive review of the human rights situation across the Tibetan plateau.

“It is clearly time for the Chinese government to fundamentally rethink its approach by listening to and addressing Tibetans’ grievances,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

The Dalai Lama said last week that it was Beijing’s “ruthless and illogical” policies toward his homeland that had triggered the tragic wave of burnings.

FT

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