Tibetans outraged as China labels suicide protesters criminals

Dalai Lama is behind growing number of self-immolations, claim Beijing authorities

Beijing

Chinese officials yesterday sought to play down the growing number of self-immolations by Tibetans, branding those who set themselves ablaze to protest Beijing's rule as outcasts and criminals being controlled by the Dalai Lama.

About 24 Tibetans are believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year, many in Aba, a prefecture in Sichuan province with a large Tibetan population. Protests in the area calling for greater autonomy erupted into deadly riots four years ago.

Wu Zegang, the government's administrator in Aba, alleged yesterday that the self-immolations were "orchestrated and supported" by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. "Some of the suicides are committed by clerics returning to lay life, and they all have criminal records or suspicious activities. They have a very bad reputation in society," said Mr Wu, himself an ethnic Tibetan.

Li Changping, a member of the Communist Party committee that governs Sichuan said "about 20 or so" people have set themselves on fire there in the past two years.

China insists that it treats minority groups fairly, and is investing heavily in the region. But Tibetans say their religion and culture are being suppressed, and they demand the exiled Dalai Lama be allowed to return to China.

The Buddhist leader has made clear he does not encourage the self-immolations, but the dramatic protests show little sign of subsiding. Three more people are reported to have burnt themselves to death since Saturday. The official Xinhua news agency yesterday acknowledged that a 20-year-old woman died after setting herself on fire at the weekend. It blamed the incident on depression rather than dissent.

Local officials said the woman, Tsering Kyi, had been taken to hospital after hitting her head and suffered fainting spells before setting herself on fire. Xinhua said her school grades started to slip, "which put a lot of pressure on her and made her lose her courage for life and study".

The outspoken Tibetan blogger known as Woeser said this was an attempt to sully the image of the protesters. "The government's mouthpiece, Xinhua, is trying to stain their image," she said. "Of course, the Chinese government clearly knows that such stigmatisation of Tibetans is not effective."

She said that the comments by the Aba administrator reflected official concern that the self-immolations flew in the face of the state narrative of a harmonious Tibet.

"They always say Tibetans are having a happy life. The Tibetans were liberated and since then they have enjoyed a happy life given by the Party. But the people burning themselves are aged 17 to 41 years, some are nuns, some are monks, some are farmers and nomads, fathers, mothers – they are all ordinary people,"

Woeser said in a phone interview from her home, where she is under unofficial house arrest. "The reality is that many people are not happy, that Tibet is not really liberated and this is embarrassing for the central government."

In other incidents in the past week, a mother of four and an 18-year-old died after setting themselves ablaze.

Tibet is on the agenda at the National People's Congress in Beijing this week. At the congress yesterday, a reporter asked Tibet's governor, Padma Choling, if he thought the Dalai Lama should set himself on fire. "If the Dalai immolates himself, that's his business and has nothing to do with me but regardless of who it is, I do not advocate it," he replied. "Life is precious. I do not hope that anyone will self-immolate."

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?