Photo: Tibet Network copyright Students for a Free Tibet
Two activists from Students for a Free Tibet hung a banner and a Tibetan flag from Cannes Ville station as world leaders arrived earlier today for the start of the G20 summit. They called on them to take urgent action to address the situation in Tibet – where nine Tibetan monks and one nun have set themselves on fire this year.
The news came through last week that for the 10th time this year, a young Tibetan has set fire to themselves in protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the ongoing crackdown on human rights and religious freedom since the 2008 protests.
Three years ago there were widespread protests across Tibet, reported globally as rioting, though this was limited to the capital city, Lhasa. After a couple of weeks of unprecedented global attention on both the protests and the brutal nature of the military crackdown in Tibet, the fickle eye of the media moved elsewhere. The protests and oppression, however, continued.
What happened in 2008 following the protests was the de facto imposition of martial law enforced by the paramilitary People’s Armed Police. The situation has changed little since then; if anything, it has got worse.
One of the most heavily policed monasteries is Kirti of Ngaba town in the Amdo province (Chinese Qinghai province). This has been the site of some of the largest demonstrations and the most brutal crackdowns.
On 16 March this year 20-year-old monk Phuntsok Jaruntsang from Kirti monastery set himself alight. He called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Police beat him whilst he was on fire and he died at 3am the following morning. He set himself alight on the anniversary of the death of 13 monks who were shot dead in 2008 for protesting. This act triggered a series of similar acts by nine monks and one nun from Kirti and surrounding monasteries.
On 15 August, 29-year-old Tsewang Norbu from Nyitso monastery; on 26 September Lobsang Kalsang and Lobsang Konchok, both 18 years old, of Kirti monastery; on 3 October 17-year-old Kalsang Wangchuk of Kirti monastery; on 7 October 19-year-old Choephel and 18-year-old Kayang, formerly of Kirti monastery; on 15 October 19-year-old former monk Norbu Dramdrul, and on 17 October 20-year-old Tenzin Wangmo, a nun of Dechen Chokorling, set themselves alight.
On 25 October, 38-year-old Dawa Tsering, a monk of Kardze monastery, set himself alight and called for the return of HH Dalai Lama and the reunification of the Tibetan people. He was dragged from the gates of Kardze monastery by security personnel and taken away. The People’s Armed Police surrounded the monastery and are still there.
Six of the self-immolators have died; the whereabouts and state of health of the others is unknown.
Campaign groups are calling for an international diplomatic intervention to apply pressure on the Chinese government to allow independent media and human rights observers into the area to investigate.
Pema Yoko, Director of Students for a Free Tibet UK, said: ‘Today the world is standing up for Tibet. We are calling on global leaders to take co-ordinated action now to pressure Chinese President Hu Jintao to withdraw Chinese troops and armed police from towns and monasteries in eastern Tibet.’
Tibet campaign groups have called an international day of action today, 2 November, to demand global diplomatic intervention to bring human rights observers into Tibet.
In Britain, Tibetans and supporters will hold a vigil at the Chinese Embassy on Portland Place in London at 6pm. For events in other countries check out the Stand Up for Tibet website.