Chinese crack down on protest action in Tibet
Chinese authorities have detained 70 people as part of a widening crackdown on a wave of self-immolations in Tibetan areas, and launched a high-profile propaganda campaign to discourage the protests.
Since February 2009, nearly 100 Tibetans, many of them young monks or nuns in the Tibetan areas of western China, have self-immolated, with most dying from their injuries.
The latest detentions took place in the northwestern province of Qinghai, where police detained 70 “criminal suspects”, 12 of whom were formally arrested, the official Xinhua news agency said.
It’s the largest sweep to date as the government tries to stop the wave of self-immolation, which has become the chief form of protest among ethnic Tibetans to express their anger at tighter political control on the Tibetan plateau.
“Police will exert more efforts to thoroughly investigate the cases and seriously punish those who incite innocent people to commit self-immolation,” Xinhua quoted Lu Benqian, Qinghai’s deputy police chief, as saying.
“A few individuals with a strong sense of extreme nationalism showed sympathy with the self-immolators and followed their example,” Mr Lu said.
Beijing blames the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize-winner the Dalai Lama and overseas Tibetan groups for inciting the self-immolations.
“The Dalai Lama clique masterminded and incited the self-immolations,” Mr Lu said. “Personal information, such as photos of the victims, were sent overseas to promote the self-immolations.”
Earlier this month, two ethnic Tibetans were jailed for “goading” people to set themselves on fire. Tibetans accuse Beijing of orchestrating a campaign of religious oppression and cultural genocide by encouraging ethnic Han Chinese to move into Tibetan areas.
Beijing says it has invested billions to modernise Tibet and improve standards of living.
This week the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast a documentary on the self-immolations, which claimed to have carried out in-depth research, and said many who self-immolated were doing it “for fame or economic gain”. In one case, they said a monk had self-immolated after he fell in love with a woman and he had been inspired by a Tibetan-language TV programme on the US state-funded broadcaster, Voice of America, which was broadcasting news about the self-immolations.
Tibetan rights groups say Tibetans choose to self-immolate because they exist under brutal military occupation and are denied their basic rights.