Why are people setting themselves alight in Tibet?
Self-immolation was once a word that I had to Google. It means setting yourself on fire. It is a brutal, painful and slow way to die and it is staggering to think that this has happened so often we have had to develop a verb for it.
Tibet has seen three self-immolations in the last three days, and those the most recent of two dozen in the last year, making this a grim phenomenon of staggering regularity and scale amongst Tibetans.
The most recent three people to take this drastic action were two women and a teenager and not, as is often the case, Buddhist monks or former clergy. This seems to indicate a wider and deepening frustration among ethnic Tibetans at China's intensified crack-down in Tibetan areas.
Campaign group Free Tibet said Dorjee, 18, the most recent protestor-casualty, died after he set himself ablaze whilst shouting slogans about Chinese policies in Tibet, in Aba county in Sichuan province on Monday.
Saturday will be the anniversary of anti-government riots that rocked the Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2008.
Frustration and despair has escalated amongst Tibetans over the last year, as the Chinese authorities have ignored their demands and resorted to heavy-handed policing tactics that have only deepened and further fueled resentments. Amnesty has said that the Chinese authorities must respect the right of Tibetans to practice their religion and to enjoy their culture, and we have also called on the authorities to end the compulsory political indoctrination that Tibetan monks and nuns undergo as part of government-enforced “patriotic” and “legal education”.
Yet with reports that security is being stepped up in Tibetan areas, with a particular focus on monasteries and other religious centres, and with the government branding people who set themselves alright “terrorists”, it does not look likely that this trend is likely to be extinguished any time soon.
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