Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tibetan monks set alight in protest at control

Two young Tibetan monks set themselves on fire in western China on Monday in protest over government religious controls, according to Tibetan exiles and activist groups outside the country.
The 18-year-old monks were both from the Kirti monastery in western Sichuan province where the self-immolation of Phuntsog, a 21-year-old monk, in March sparked protests and an intense crackdown by Chinese security services. One of the monks who set himself alight on Monday was Phuntsog’s younger brother, according to the activist group Free Tibet.
“They yelled: ‘Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama; we need religious freedom immediately’,” a monk from the Kirti monastery told the Financial Times from exile in India.
“Immediately after the incident took place the police extinguished the fire and took away the bodies. We don’t know where the bodies are, nor do we know the condition,” said Tsering, an activist based in the Indian hill station, Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan exile movement.
Monday’s self-immolations mark the third incident involving Tibetan monks in six months, according to activists.
The acts represent “an unprecedented trend, underlining the growing desperation among some young Tibetans”, according to Stephanie Brigden, director of UK-based Free Tibet. “It is impossible to confirm what prompted this act of protest, but it is believed to be in response to mounting pressure on the monastic community at Kirti monastery and Phuntsog’s family members.”
Half a dozen monks, including some of Phuntsog’s relatives, have been handed stiff sentences for their alleged involvement in his self-immolation. At least three were jailed for “intentional homicide” and sentenced to between 10 and 13 years in prison for “plotting, instigating and assisting” the self-immolation.
His death sparked a harsh government crackdown that led to the deaths of at least two Tibetan protesters, the detention of 300 monks for a month and a ban on all foreign visitors to the area.
There were varying accounts on Monday as to the fate of the two young monks, with some exiles saying they believed one had died of his injuries and Chinese state media reporting they had suffered only minor burns and were both in stable condition.
Monks from the Kirti monastery were also involved in protests in 2008 that swept across the Tibetan plateau in a reaction against Chinese rule over the area. The Chinese government laid much of the blame for that unrest on the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, whom Beijing says is intent on splitting the country.
On Monday, the atheist Chinese communist party defended the belief in reincarnation after the Dalai Lama questioned whether the practice should be continued. Beijing has enacted a law allowing it to choose the Dalai Lama’s successor, and approve all reincarnations of senior Tibetan religious figures.

By Jamil Anderlini and Girija Shivakumar taken from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6d3899a8-e85c-11e0-8f05-00144feab49a.html#axzz1ZAPVjYAT

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