Saturday, November 5, 2011


Desperate Tibetans turning to self-immolation
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 04/11/2011
Reporter: Stephen McDonell
A Tibetan man has become the twelfth person to set themselves on fire this year as part of protests against Chinese rule.


ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: A Tibetan man has set himself alight outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi to demand independence for Tibet.

The protest comes a day after a Tibetan nun died in China after dousing herself in fuel and setting herself on fire.

There have now been 12 similar cases of self-immolation this year as part of protests against Chinese rule in Tibet. 

China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports.

And a warning that this story contains some disturbing images.

STEPHEN MCDONELL, REPORTER: The Chinese embassy in India has seen the latest Tibetan self-immolation attempt. This bleak and what some would call desperate strategy has spread from monasteries inside China. 

SELF-IMMOLATING PROTESTER: Free Tibet, Free Tibet, Free Tibet, Free Tibet. Stop killing in Tibet.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: And while it may be shocking, it is becoming more and more common. 

(Footage of the 2008 protest violence)

Most of China's Tibetan areas have remained tense since the violent clashes which erupted in 2008. Monks were at the forefront of demonstrations against Chinese rule. 

But now they're turning to a most extreme form of protest. 

(Footage of person who has set themselves on fire lying in the street) 

This is the only footage which has emerged of a series of self-immolations in China. This is said to be the monk Lobsang Konchok shortly after he set himself on fire in Aba prefecture. 

Eleven monks and nuns have now self-immolated since March. The latest being a nun who reportedly died calling out for religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama as she burned. 

LOBSANG SANJAY, PRIME MINISTER, TIBETAN GOVERNMENT IN EXILE: Those Tibetans who grew up under the Chinese system of education, propaganda, economy and culture are saying enough. This is unbearable. We can't live under these circumstances.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: The leader of what's called the Tibetan Government in Exile is in Washington to gather support. 

He was asked if he backed monks setting themselves on fire.

LOBSANG SANJAY: As a matter of principle, Tibetan administration based in India, of which I'm the head, do not, do not encourage protests inside Tibet or for that matter self-immolation as well. Because ... mainly because we know the consequences. 

If you protest in Tibet, more often than not you get arrested, you get beaten up, sometimes tortured, then sometimes you disappear, sometimes you die.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: But the Chinese government says Tibetan exile groups are definitely to blame for the self-immolations.

JIANG YU, SPOKESWOMAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (Translation): This behaviour, which ignores life and violates moral standards, should be condemned. We note that after these incidents, the overseas Tibet Independence Force, the Dalai clique, has not denounced this extreme behaviour but publicly glorified it.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Getting to the bottom of this or any Tibetan's story is very difficult when trying to do so from here in Beijing. But foreign reporters have little choice when the authorities won't even let us go near these sensitive Tibetan areas. 

And as long as Tibetan nuns and monks keep setting themselves on fire, this is not likely to change in a hurry.

Stephen McDonell, Lateline. 


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