When will this tragic procession of burning deaths stop on this planet?
A Tibetan monk in his early 20s set himself on fire in Katmandu, the Nepalese capital, Wednesday. He died after being taken to a hospital. The Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, confirmed the monk as the 100th Tibetan to carry out a self-immolation protest since 2009.
Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Tibetan exile Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay as saying, "Because there is no freedom of speech, unfortunately Tibetans have chosen self-immolations.’’
True, the self-immolations, most of which have occurred in China’s ethnically Tibetan areas, must be the tragic but unique form of protest Tibetans have chosen to protest China’s heavy-handed rule for more than six decades. The tragic nature of their self-burnings is manifested well in the fact that suicide contradicts Buddhist teachings that all life is sacred.
While China accuses the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, of encouraging self-immolations, death may be the only recourse left for Tibetans to make their voices heard in the international community. Of the 100 self-immolators ― most of them are between 17 and 30 years old, at least 83 have died and the survivors live in mortal agony with their faces and bodies badly burnt and disfigured.
The exile government asks Tibetans not to take drastic action, including self-immolations, saying it opposes all violence, but the burnings continue amid Beijing’s alleged human rights abuses. In November last year when China held a Communist Party Congress to unveil its new leadership, nearly 30 Tibetans set fire to themselves.
China condemns self-immolation as a criminal act and harshly penalizes those who “incite” others to do it out of concern that its policies may prompt other minorities to seek independence. Beijing also has taken a hard-line stance against international moves to intervene in the Tibet situation.
Beijing insists that Tibet has progressed remarkably under its rule, but such arguments appear pointless, reminiscent of Japan’s sophistry with its forcible colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
What matters most is that the international community remains completely indifferent to the spate of self-immolations. Even the United Nations has done little to prevent the recurrence of Tibetans’ miserable deaths, probably because of Beijing’s colossal power.
Without catastrophic changes on the international stage, Tibet won’t be able to cast off China’s yoke for a considerable time. What is urgently needed are international efforts to stop these tragic deaths, and in this regard, China should be fully committed to dialogue and seek peaceful solutions.