Xi Jinping cannot ignore new evidence of real causes of Tibet protests

Thursday, 15 November 2012

As China publicly blames the Dalai Lama and his “clique” for self-immolations in Tibet, actual evidence of what is motivating escalating protests across Tibet has emerged. It is this evidence that Xi Jinping cannot afford to ignore.

Free Tibet has documented escalating protests across a wide swathe of Tibet since October 2011. Rebkong (1) is one of many counties that have been affected. There has been a series of protests there this year, including several involving thousands of people and at least eight self-immolations (2). Just today, as China announces seven new, unelected leaders, two young Tibetans set fire to themselves in protest in the county.

Evidence obtained by Free Tibet, including statements from Communist Party officials from Rebkong County, demonstrates China’s brutal response to any perceived threat to internal stability, and the corrosive effect of this approach. A statement by the newly-appointed Communist Party Secretary for Rebkong, Jiang Shucheng (3) clearly illustrates the Communist Party approach:

“If the government can stop millions of people protesting in Beijing, why can’t we control several hundred people in Rebkong?”

Jiang Shucheng’s commitment to controlling people rather than addressing the root causes of their grievances is likely to be guided by the uncritical desire to please his masters in Beijing. Having failed to enforce loyalty to “One China” in Tibet, the next resort is to enact policies to eradicate symbols of Tibetan unity; one of the most powerful of these is the Dalai Lama (4).

And yet, at a community level, Communist Party officials who have greater day-to-day contact with people understand that protests are a result of failed policies. At a Communist Party meeting on 11 November 2012 to discuss why self-immolations are happening, a local party official announced that he believes Tibetans are setting fire to themselves because of the lack of freedom in Tibet. The official, who has been in post for 15 years, also blamed the enforced exile of the Dalai Lama and China’s imprisonment of the second highest lama in Tibet, the Panchen Lama (5).

Local people praised the “bold and sympathetic” words of the party official and said they were amazed he had spoken out.

Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said:

“By pointing the finger at the Dalai Lama, China is desperately trying to avoid blame for causing Tibetan protests, and to deflect attention from the brutality of the occupation that lies at the heart of Tibetan grievances.

“Free Tibet urges diplomats and the international community not to be distracted by such cheap diversionary tactics, but to maintain pressure on China to end protests by giving Tibetans the freedom that is rightfully theirs.”

Ends

Notes to Editors

1) Chinese: Tongren, Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Rebkong County has a population of approximately 80,000.

2) Free Tibet press releases detailing recent protests: http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/press-releases

Full list of Tibetan self-immolations: http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet

3) Photograph of Jiang Shucheng, appointed Rebkong Communist Party Secretary in September 2012: http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/8184820940/in/photostream
Jiang Shucheng (Chinese: :蒋树成) is also a standing committee member of Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He was previously the Party Secretary of Guinan County Government in Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai.

4) After last week’s student protests in Rebkong, local television broadcast a meeting of Communist Party officials during which it was alleged that “the Dalai clique” has instigated self-immolations and student protests in the county, echoing Communist Party rhetoric in international media.

Jiang Shucheng (see 3 above) has ordered a purge of photographs of the Dalai Lama across Rebkong County. Free Tibet has obtained pictures of notices posted in villages which instruct locals that photographs of “the Dalai” are completely banned from monasteries (http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/8185432729/in/photostream).

A notice dated 17 September 2012, posted by the “Cultural Market Management Leader Team Office of Rebkong County”, prohibits the sale of materials relating to the Dalai Lama: videos, photos, books, letters, pendants, which “instigate the separation of the country”.

5) For further information about the Panchen Lama, who was disappeared by the Communist Party when he was six years old: http://www.freetibet.org/content/panchen-lama

Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.

For interviews and further information please contact Free Tibet’s Director Stephanie Brigden:
E: stephanie@freetibet.org
M: +44 7951 479 515
T: +44 207 324 4605