Tibetan Unrest Shows Signs Of Spreading From Sichuan To Tibet – Analysis


The unrest of Tibetan monks, which has so far led to 10 attempts to commit self-immolation — seven of them successful resulting in deaths — in Western Sichuan, is now showing signs of spreading to Tibet. However, there are no reports so far of any attempted self-immolation in Tibet.

The unrest in Tibet is showing signs of taking a more violent form directed against Han targets instead of self-immolation. The Chinese authorities have banned all religious activities at the historic Karma monastery in Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture following a bomb explosion at a government building there on October 26, 2011. It has been reported that nearly all the monks at the monastery in the Dzagyu Karma township where the blast occurred have fled from the area, fearing that they might be arrested and detained in a military detention camp as the Chinese have done to a large number of monks of the Kirti monastery in Western Sichuan following the first incident of self-immolation of a young monk in March last.

For some week now, there have been reports of anger among the Tibetans in the Dzagyu Karma area over the re-settlement of a large number of Hans from other provinces in the rural areas under the pretext of undertaking development projects for the Tibetans. Before the blast, anonymous leaflets circulating in the area had warned as follows: “Anyone who settles in the rural area should speak Tibetan. Otherwise, we will not accept them. If this policy of settling Chinese in Tibetan rural areas is not stopped, we will protest and may be forced to resort to violence.”

After the blast, Chinese security forces surrounded the Karma monastery, located on the eastern bank of the Dzachu River in Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture and founded in the 12th century. They allegedly suspected that monks in the monastery were behind the blast, which badly damaged the building but caused no casualties. The Chinese security forces claimed to have found in the area of the blast posters and leaflets calling for Tibetan independence.

Fearing that the Tibetan refugees in Nepal (about 20,000) may play a role in spreading the unrest to Tibet from Nepalese territory, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu is reported to have stepped up pressure on the Nepalese Government to arrest what the Embassy described as the splittist elements in the local Tibetan refugee community. Chinese concerns have increased following an attempt bysome members of the Tibetan refugee community in Nepal to hold a prayer meeting in memory of those who committed self-immolation in Sichuan. Following pressure from the Chinese Embassy, the Nepalese authorities are reported to have arrested about 100 refugees who participated in the prayer meeting.

In the meanwhile, Lobsang Sangay, the newly-elected head of the Tibetan Government-in-exile in Dharamshala, has arrived in Washington DC to testify before a Congressional Committee on the human rights situation in the Tibetan areas of China. While expressing his readiness for talks with the Chinese authorities, he blamed the Chinese refusal to accept the reality of the ground situation in the Tibetan areas for the continuing unrest. He added: “The actions of Tibetans who pour gasoline over themselves are clear indications of their desperation and frustration and of the urgency of the situation inside Tibet.”

B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

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