Burning Tibet

It is shocking, and it is more heart-aching…

Between 27 February 2009 and 30 March 2012, there are 33 Tibetans in China and three exile Tibetans set fire on themselves, among them 24 died, writes Tsering Woeser (in Chinese), a Tibetan poet, writer, and blogger living in Beijing.

In her blog (in Chinese), Woeser writes about the self-immolation of Palden Choetso,

Burning like a torch, Palden Choetso was standing straight on the street, her whole body was on fire… I covered my face with hands because my tears were running down like raining. Palden Choetso, ten years younger than me, was burned to death. It is not metal, it is not stone either, it is a person with skin, with flesh and blood, and with bones. This can even make a stone-hearted person shaking.

Tears in my eyes, at first I thought she was walking in fire, calling the name of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Carefully looking, I found that she did not step forward, instead, stood there straight, and bent her body a bit, and then stood straight again. While on the street, people were screaming, she was falling down. In one picture, she was on the ground facing up, with hands folded in a prayer’s position.

I wish I could be the lady in Tibetan costume in the video, she did not scream, instead, walked towards Palden Choetso burning in fire, trying to present her a white khata to show her respect…”

How much pain did they suffer? Why did they do this? Being non-Tibetan, probably this is almost impossible for us to understand.

On 8 January 2012, 41-year-old Rinpoche Sonam Wangyal, dressed in yellow Kasaya, poured gasoline on himself and burned to death in Guoluo, Qinghai Province in China. He wrote in his last letter (in Chinese) that

I want to pay my tribute to all the Tibetans that burned themselves since 2009, I am dying for the freedom of the Tibetan nationality, for the freedom of religion, for the freedom of movement, and freedom of expression, it is not for self-interest. Tibetan people need to support Tibetan economy. Tibetan people do not celebrate lunar Chinese New Year, but shall use the Tibetan calendar. Tibetan people shall work together to let Gyalwa Rinpoche (Tibetans addresses the Dalai Lama, means “Precious Victor”) live with us for ever, and for the future of Tibetan freedom. There shall be no division by sects or places. Do not lose the belief, for there will be the coming of the happy day ultimately.”

Freedom of religion and the rights of minority nationalities are all guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution. Nevertheless, in Tibet, economic development has been emphasized by the Chinese Communist Party to develop Tibet while religious and cultural freedom has been to a certain extent restrained for the sake of social stability due to both historic and political reason. In today’s Tibet, the name of Dalai Lama shall not be mentioned, his portrait is not allowed to be hung in temples, instead the portraits of the Chinese leaders were sent there.  In January 2012, people of more than 60 years old from Tibet were allowed by the Chinese authority to participate in Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra in India. However, they were questioned and under education in special school upon their return to Tibet and some were even not allowed to go back home for the Tibetan New Year. Tibetan language has been decreased in school textbooks…

The self-immolation is clearly a political protest for Tibetans, as it is said by Robert Barnett, Director of the Modern Tibet Studies Program at Columbia University, in an interview. And it has already become a continuous form of dissent, so heart-achingly. More sadly, facing the death of so many lives, the Chinese government shamelessly stated that there is no human rights violation in Tibet at the UN Human Rights Council hearing. This cannot stop the burning spirit of Tibetans but will only make it burn more fearlessly.

'To Kill the Spirit of Tibet' by Hexie Farm

To respect the right to life, to respect the freedom of religion, and to guarantee cultural freedom, it is time for the Chinese government to change its policies in the Tibetan region, as it is written by Wang Lixiong, a Chinese writer and scholar, in his recent article “Except self-immolation, what else can be done?”

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