Please also see Saransh Sehgal’s interview with Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the Kalon Tripa (prime minister) of the Tibetan government in exile here.
Since 2009 an estimated 71 Tibetans have set themselves on fire inside China (as of this filing), constituting one of the biggest waves of political self-immolations in recent memory. Despite being given scant attention globally, Tibetans have regularly set themselves on fire as a means of protesting China’s repressive policies in the region. The latest incident occurred on Sunday in Gansu province, capping off a particularly deadly week that saw eight self-immolations, along with a major street demonstration by hundreds of Tibetan students in Eastern Tibet. This, of course, all takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing 18th Communist Party Congress.
The reaction from Beijing has not been encouraging. Lobsang Gyaltsen, a delegate at the CPC congress and vice governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region said on November 8, “Overseas separatists entice victims. Those people who support Tibetan independence call their deeds a heroic act and these people heroes.”
“It is actually an act of murder to entice somebody to commit suicide …. The Dalai Lama group is sacrificing other people’s lives to achieve their evil goals,” he added.
Meanwhile, Beijing has also been ratcheting up security in Tibet and has banned foreign journalists from working in the area.
Kate Saunders, the spokesperson for the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, told The Diplomat, “The self-immolations are a dramatic and visible counter to the claims of the Chinese Communist Party to be improving Tibetans’ lives and they are a direct challenge to the Party’s legitimacy in Tibet. The international community should also prevail upon the Chinese leadership to end the military buildup and limit the dominance of the security apparatus, factors that have intensified the dangers in Tibet, increasing the risk of more self-immolations.”