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China Must Address Root Causes of Growing Tibetan Protests

January 27, 2012

Human Rights in China (HRIC) is deeply concerned about the protests and violence in Luhuo County (Drango in Tibetan) and Sêrtar County (in Chinese, Seda County [色达县], also known as Sertha County) in western Sichuan Province on January 23 and 24, the first days of the Chinese New Year.

Kirti Rinpoche and interpreter, November 2011 (HRIC photo)

The killing of Tibetan protesters, six in Drango and five in Sertha reported, by Chinese security forces is another striking example of the tragic ineffectiveness of the Chinese response to the growing protests and ongoing self-immolations of Tibetans in the region. Since February 2009, 17 Tibetans have set themselves on fire. Twelve have died. Four of the deaths occurred in the first two weeks of 2012 alone. Many were monks from Kirti Monastery in Ngawa County (Chinese: Aba County [阿坝县], also known as Ngaba County), Sichuan Province. The youngest was 17 years old.

“China must address the root causes of the protests—escalating repression and failed official policy. What the Tibetan people need are demilitarization and greater respect for fundamental rights and freedom,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director. “The time for the Chinese authorities to act responsibly and effectively to bring peace to the region and prevent further bloodshed is now. They need to demonstrate true leadership before it is too late.”

In a November 2011 live webcast meeting with the press that HRIC organized, Kirti Rinponche, the chief abbot and spiritual leader of the Kirti Monasteries in Tibet and India, detailed the climate of fear across the Tibetan region in Sichuan, based on information that reached him through underground channels. (See edited transcript here.) Speaking from New York with foreign journalists based in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and New York, Rinpoche described a state of terror in the Kirti Monastery, where government officials have replaced monastic authorities, where monks were divided into 55 groups and subjected to “patriotic re-education” and round-the-clock surveillance and random searches.

Kirti Rinpoche underscored that the Chinese government’s escalating repression is the main cause of the self-immolations, and that “the moment the Chinese government withdraws its repression, we know that these desperate actions will stop.” He called for the cessation of official violence and resolution of conflict through dialogue:

No amount of violent military rule has ever been able to solve or resolve any conflict, so we believe it’s utterly important for the Chinese leaders and officials to realize that the only way to solve this issue is through peace and non-violence and dialogue, and they should muster the courage and the vision to do so.

Instead of waging the official disinformation campaign, HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to allow international journalists to visit the region so that they may report on the actual situation there.

For more information on Tibet, see:

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