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It is not a cause the leftist ‘Occupy Wall Street’ crowd would ever espouse, since its life-or-death issues would shame theirs and show where true evil and oppression resides.
Largely ignored by the Western media, nine Tibetan Buddhist monks and one nun have attempted suicide by self-immolation since last March in China’s eastern Sichuan province, a hotbed of unrest against perceived Chinese government oppression. Eastern Sichuan is largely inhabited by ethnic Tibetans and was once historically part of Tibet.
It is unknown how many of the ten perished in their suicide attempts, since Chinese authorities never say whether a monk survived. But it is believed five have died from their injuries, the nun, Tengzin Wangmo, 20, being one of them. The latest attempted self-immolation, reported by the Free Tibet group, occurred only last week outside a monastery in Ganzi in Sichuan, when a monk set himself alight after dousing himself with an accelerant. It is also not known whether he survived.
“The unrest in Tibet is escalating and widening,” said Stephanie Brigden of Free Tibet. “The number and frequency of self-immolations is unprecedented.”
The latest fatality, whose name is unknown, is the eighth Buddhist monk to attempt suicide by fire in the past two months. This increase in self-immolation numbers indicates the Tibetans’ level of desperation and despair concerning the survival of their people, culture and religion, which they see threatened by Han Chinese immigration and repressive government measures. Beijing gained control of Tibet, which is now labelled an autonomous region, after it successfully invaded its neighbour in 1950.
Self-immolations, like those occurring in Tibet, are a sign of a people reaching the end of its tether. It is the only weapon the powerless and brutalised Tibetans feel they have left that could make a difference against a monstrous dictatorship that has already murdered 70 million people. The employment of this ultimate measure is also an indication that Tibetans believe their situation and conditions are becoming so hopeless, they would rather perish than continue living in their present state.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, self-immolations also occurred in European communist countries to protest the unbearable and horrific results of decades of socialism. A self-immolation also triggered the ‘Arab Spring’ when a man set himself alight in Tunisia to protest bureaucratic corruption. While it is doubtful whether the recent self-immolations of Buddhist spirituals will lead to such regime-changing events, especially in the face of continued, massive Chinese police oppression, Brigden believes they are sparking discontent.
“The acts of self-immolation are not taking place in isolation, protests have been reported in the surrounding region and calls for wider protests are growing,” she said.
The center of the recent Tibetan suicide protests, and of anti-Beijing sentiment in general, is the Kirti monastery in eastern Sichuan. The majority of monks involved in the fiery suicide attempts this year were from Kirti, the first one taking place last March. The monk was 16-years-old. Two other Kirti monks, accused of assisting with the March attempt, were both given long jail terms.
Before the self-immolations, the Kirti monastery had a population of 2,500 monks; that has now dwindled to 600 due to arrests, police persecution and “brutal” security raids.” With police now stationed inside the monastery itself, the religious institution is reported to have been turned into “a virtual prison.” Several hundred monks may also have been sent away for “patriotic re-education.”
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