Since 2009, more than 50 Tibetan people have set themselves on fire in protest at Draconian Chinese rule – reveals campaign group
On February 27, 2009, a Tibetan monk in his twenties called Tapey walked out of his monastery alone to a nearby crossroads. He then doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire. Since then, more than 50 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet - including a 19-year old female student, a widowed mother of four and a reincarnate lama in his forties. This constitutes one of the biggest waves of self-immolation as political protest globally in the past 60 years. The self-immolations have raised the stakes in Tibet, both in terms of increased global attention and in the context of a year of unprecedented generational change in the leadership; culminating with the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, expected this autumn.
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. While the Chinese government has sought to blame the Dalai Lama and "outside forces" for the self-immolations, it is acknowledged by the international community as well as a number of scholars and netizens in China that these dramatic developments in Tibet reflect a fundamental failure in policy that must be addressed.
There is a direct correlation between the self-immolations and an intensified campaign against the Dalai Lama in Tibet, together with the aggressive and systematic expansion of legal measures tightening state control over Tibetan religion and culture. The self-immolations point to a profound struggle in Tibet today, to ensure the survival of Tibetan cultural and national identity and a measure of freedom to live as Tibetans. Tibetan self-immolators have called for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to come home.
The International Campaign for Tibet's latest report 60 Years of Chinese misrule: arguing cultural genocide in Tibet
demonstrates that the Chinese state has not only failed in its responsibility to protect the Tibetan people and their rights under Chinese and international law, but it has been primary violator of those rights. It states that the Chinese authorities have engaged in a consistent effort over 60-plus years to replace authentic, organic Tibetan culture with a state-approved and controlled version that comports - with the ideological, political and economic objectives of the Chinese Communist Party.
A fundamentally new approach is warranted in Tibet. The Chinese government needs to take immediate steps to address the current emergency in Tibetan areas of the People's Republic of China and conduct an assessment of existing policies and measures that negatively impact Tibetan religion and culture - utilising international expertise and incorporating Tibetan participation. We are asking European Union leaders to continue to insist on demonstrable improvements in the human rights situation in Tibet. The EU must engage with its Chinese interlocutors in a manner that conveys urgent concern about policies that are threatening Tibetan culture, religion and identity. And the EU should also prevail upon the Chinese leadership to end the military build-up that has intensified the dangers in Tibet - increasing the risk of more self-immolations.
Europe has the chance to play an important role in engaging China on Tibet and to call on the Chinese government to acknowledge the importance of the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people. They must acknowledge his critical role in Tibet's future and initiate a broader and more substantive dialogue with representatives as a matter of urgency. The EU-China Summit on September 20, with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Brussels, represents an opportunity for the European Leaders and in particular EU presidents Herman Van Rompuy and JosÚ Manuel Barroso - as well as the new special representative for human rights Stavros Lambrinidis - to voice and discuss these concerns with the Chinese premier. Vincent Metten is EU policy director at the International Campaign for Tibet
Why wouldn't you leave an email address or number to contact, to ask European leaders to participate on handling the protection of the Tibetan people?
PJ - Fort Lauderdale, USA