Three former Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire, bringing new awareness of the desperation many Tibetans feel under Chinese rule. In the past year, 15 nuns, monks, and former monks have practiced self-immolation.
Nayage Sonamdrugyu was from the Nyanmro Monatery in Qinghai Province; he set himself on fire at an intersection in Darlag. His death has brought heightened awareness of a growing trend. The province of Tibet is currently under Chinese rule, and those within Tibet are calling for its freedom and the return of their leader, the Dalai Lama.
In recent years, China has enforced new restrictions on the province. One activist, Tsering Woser told CNN, “The strict control and severe suppression over religion in the region are depressing-they leave no breathing space for the local Tibetans. If the government can show some mercy, there will be much fewer tragedies like this.”
The Dalai Lama has said, “Many Chinese from mainland China who visit Tibet, they all have the impression things are terrible…some kind of culture genocide is taking place. That’s why, you see, these sorts of sad incidents happen, due to the desperateness of the situation. We are totally committed to the non-violence principle.”
He added, “For their own interest, not just the interest for certain sort of problem here and there, but for the whole country’s sort of future, they have to act [with a] realistic sort of policy.”
Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche, abbot of Kirti monasteries, has said, “Wherever there is repression, there will be resistance. They find they have no choice but to express their opposition to Chinese rule by an extreme form of non-violence. They have not harmed a single Chinese.”
Tibet has been under Chinese governance since 1950, when it was invaded. According to reports filed by human rights activists and the United Nations, Tibetans have suffered immensely from the occupation. Many have been tortured or killed by Chinese officials.
Religious freedom is one of the crucial issues for China, which is known for its atheism. Under Chinese law, religious symbols and ceremonies are often banned. The Dalai Lama fled China in 1959 in order to escape persecution; he has not returned since then.
The U.N. has acknowledged human rights violations committed by China, and today U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated, “We’re seriously concerned by reports that three more Tibetans have self-immolated over the past few days. These actions clearly represent…enormous anger, enormous frustration with regard to the severe restrictions on human rights, including religious freedom inside China.”
Nuland added, “[The U.S.] has urged the Chinese government to have a productive dialogue, to loosen up in Tibet and allow journalists and diplomats and other observers to report accurately, and to respect the human rights of all of their citizens.”
The Christian Post spoke with Noel Clay of the State Department, who reiterated concern over the growing trend of self-immolation. He noted that the U.S. has “constantly raised issues and repeatedly urged China to respect all human rights.” Clay also stated that there are talks “on all levels” between the U.S. and China.