Penpa Tsering: Tibetans continue to set themselves on fire because China represses them
by Nirmala Carvalho
The president of the Tibetan parliament in exile accuses China of pushing young Tibetans "to the brink of despair." In two days, four young people between 18 and 24 have immolated themselves. A demonstration of 1,000 students in Qinghai was suppressed with violence and tear gas by police. Twenty students were seriously injured. The authorities have banned self-immolations and are demanding the involvement of village leaders to stop them. Even the families must sign. Fines and imprisonment for those who refuse.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - "Our Tibetan brothers and sisters resort to self-immolation because all our forms of non-violence fail, in front of China, which will not budge." This is the bitter comment to AsiaNews by Penpa Tsering, President of the Tibetan parliament in exile, after the news that four more young people had set themselves on fire for the Tibetan cause and 20 students were beaten in a peaceful demonstration. "The Chinese repression is driving our young people to the brink of despair."

In the last two days, four young people have immolated themselves to request freedom for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama. On November 25, a young Tibetan nun, Sangay Dolmas, was killed in Tongren (Qinghai); yesterday it was the turn of the 18 year-old Kunchok Tsering (in Xiahe, Gansu), the 20 year-old Wang Gyal, whose condition is still unknown, and the 24 year-old Gonpo Tsering Luqu (Gansu).

Yesterday, another 20 young Tibetans were beaten while protesting nonviolently in Chabcha (Chinese: Gonghe) in Qinghai.

A group of one thousand young people had organized a demonstration against a booklet of "patriotic education" being distributed in universities. It states that the Tibetan language "is irrelevant" and that "self-immolation" is a "stupid act". "The student's demands", continued Penpa Tsering to AsiaNews, "were legitimate and their methods peaceful. They demanded equality between ethnic groups, respect for the truth, a new government. Despite the non-violent nature of the rally, after two hours of protests, groups of armed police clashed with students and started beating them indiscriminately. To disperse the crowd they also launched tear gas. Now the police and the army have surrounded the school, Sorig Lobling."

Since 2009, at least 80 Tibetans, mostly very young, have set themselves on fire for Tibet's freedom and to save their culture and religion from genocide. During the Chinese Communist Party Congress, dozens of Tibetans immolated themselves, throwing discredit on China's policy, accused of repression.

Since November 14, the Qinghai police have launched a campaign against self-immolation, going so far as to impose fines and penalties on the families of those who commit suicide and on their villages of origin.

In the counties of Dowa, Thunding and Malho, the government even requires declarations from village leaders that they are committed to curbing self-immolation. The police go from house to house, forcing all the families to sign a pledge against self-immolation. Those who refuse risk prison.

Penpa Tsering reaffirmed that "the self-immolations are a sad consequence of the failure of our every request using peaceful means. Unfortunately, as long as China does not change its policy, there will always be people setting themselves on fire."

In Tibetan Buddhism, he explains, the aspect of suicide is not considered; rather, "the motivation is more important than action. These actions are totally non-violent, completely devoid of hatred and anger and therefore appeal to young people's spirit of altruism, their fight for a just and greater cause: it is China's repression that is pushing young people to the brink of despair."