A second self-immolation this year carried out by a Tibetan Buddhist monk has been confirmed to have occurred in the province of Sichuan of south western China. This self-immolation represents the lack of significant loosening in the relations between the Chinese government and the Tibetan people as both sides claim their rights. Moreover the self-immolations show deep loyalty and respect towards the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile.
The monk, who has been identified as 29 year old Tsewang Norbu (pictured) by the Free Tibet group, drank gasoline, doused himself in gasoline and then set himself alight on the middle of a bridge in the town of Daofu in the Ganzi County of the Sichuan Province.
Before he set himself alight, the monk called out, “Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet! Freedom for the Tibetan people!”
The self-immolation has provoked a nasty response from Chinese authorities who have already imprisoned at least 300 Tibetan monks as curfew is now being imposed in parts of the area.
Self-immolation in the modern history of Asia has often been effective in showcasing defiance against a government’s policies or harsh rule. The most famous self-immolation in modern Asian history is one carried out by Thích Quảng Đức who protested against the U.S.-backed Vietnamese government ran by Ngo Dinh Diem.
Other famous cases of self-immolation are now being found today in the Middle East and North Africa as the Jasmine Revolution continues to make the public restless regarding their governments.
The general Tibetan populace are discontent with what they call an oppressive rule by the Chinese government which marched into Tibet with an army in 1950 effectively ending Tibet’s autonomy.
After a failed uprising shortly after in 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet and set up a government-in-exile near India’s border with China.
For decades, the Dalai Lama has been going around the world raising awareness and support for what he calls “greater autonomy” for Tibetans.
Meanwhile the Chinese government has been venomously trying to stamp out the Dalai Lama’s influence by forcing monks to live in “reeducation” camps, refusing to sometimes deal with other governments who invited the Dalai Lama to their countries or even “warning” others of a strain in relations, like with the United States when President Obama invited the Dalai Lama to the White House.
The most recent widespread protests taken up by the Tibetans was right before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The immediate crackdown was condemned by human rights groups and other countries casting a shadow on the Olympics in China throughout the duration.
Many are outraged that the Chinese government has audaciously claimed the right to choose the Panchen Lama, who is to be the next Dalai Lama, as they see Tibet as just another province of China just as the Chinese government sees the virtually independent Taiwan as a Chinese province.
The Han Chinese ethnicity has also been recently clashing with other ethnic groups, such as the Uighurs, who lament that their cultures are being stifled by the overwhelming presence of Han Chinese.
(Cover Photo: Ashwini Bhatia/AP; shows a picture of Tsewang Norbu being held by an old woman)