The anti-Han and anti-Beijing ferment, marked by endless self-immolations of freedom-loving Tibetans—monks and others, young and old, men and women— continues in the Tibetan areas of China.
There have already been 114 self-immolations so far—the majority in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, where the self-immolations started in 2009 following Chinese suppression of the monks of the Kirti monastery.
The Chinese attempts to intimidate the potential self-immolators by jailing friends and relatives of some self-immolators on charges of abetment of suicide have failed to crush the movement. The more the suppression, the more the self-immolations.
In their desperation, the Chinese projected the movement as orchestrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his overseas supporters and by the Voice of America. Finding that their allegations had no takers in the international community, they are now trying to blame some Tibetan followers of His Holiness in Dharamsala, India, for allegedly instigating the self-immolations.
On March 18, 2013, the State-owned Xinhua news agency disseminated the following report:
“ Chinese police have sent co-investigation request to police authorities in related countries concerning a 32-year-old man who instigated a self-immolation incident in which two teenage boys died.
“Police in southwest China's Sichuan Province said two teenagers died after setting themselves ablaze in Jamcha Village, Ruoergai County, in the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba.
“Rinchen Tseli, 15, and Sonam Dakyi, 16, self-immolated on Feb. 19 and died at the scene, according to a statement released Monday by police authorities.
“Fear and homesickness prompted Ye Ja, a 17-year-old who had planned to self-immolate with the other two teens, to reconsider, said the statement.
“Police said they found that Rinchen Tseli's 32-year-old uncle, known as Tenpa Gyatso, among other names, organized the self-immolations. He formerly served as a monk in the Jage Monastery in Jamcha Village.
“Tenpa Gyatso illegally crossed the border to India's Dorje Monastery in 2007, and he was also a staff member with the press contact group of India's Kirti Monastery. He maintained close contact with Rinchen Tseli and inculcated the idea of "Tibet independence" upon him frequently, said the statement.
“Since January, Tenpa Gyatso repeatedly incited Rinchen Tseli to self-immolate through the Internet-based smartphone chatting software WeChat and claimed that self-immolators are "national heroes," according to the statement.
“"The Indian side will carve your name on the Monument to Self-immolators in Takla Sala and pray for you. You will become an extraordinary man," Tenpa Gyatso encouraged Rinchen Tseli, according to the statement.
By “co-investigation request”, the Chinese apparently mean a request for mutual legal assistance in the investigation. The Xinhua despatch does not name the countries to which the co-investigation request has been addressed, but India is likely to be one of them since it has been alleged that Tenpa Gyatso works for a monastery in India and was in China till 2007.
In the past, the Chinese had blamed organisations such as the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) and members of the diaspora for the self-immolations, without directly blaming anyone in India or seeking Indian assistance in the investigation. This is the first time they had named someone in India and sought mutual legal assistance in the investigation.
To my knowledge, India does not have a treaty on mutual legal assistance with China. We are not bound to take cognisance of Chinese allegations and request for legal assistance. India should not become an unwitting party to Chinese attempts to intimidate freedom-loving Tibetans.
In the meanwhile, the Chinese authorities are reported to have circulated in the Tibetan areas a list of “unlawful” activities by Tibetans which would result in police action against them. According to Radio Free Asia, activities made punishable include fund-raising “in the name of social welfare,” urging protection of the environment or the Tibetan language, and conducting prayer rituals or other religious ceremonies if these carry “overtones” of support for Tibetan independence.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and ,presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter @SORBONNE75