A Tibetan in flames after self-immolating at a protest ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India, in New Delhi, March 26, 2012

Tibetan Monks Fight Chinese Police State With Self-Immolation


Tibetans in Tibet and in other parts of China have in recent years been protesting against Chinese rule by setting themselves on fire after pouring gasoline on themselves.

Its been called the ‘ultimate political protest.’

Rooted in some elements of Buddhism and Hinduism, self-immolation has been practiced for many centuries but, in modern times, has become a type of radical political martyrdom.

Gaining wide attention in the 1960s when a number of monks immolated themselves by burning in protest of the discriminatory treatment endured by Buddhists in South Vietnam, the western world developed a noble affinity for the practice – and rightly so. How much more dedicated to ones own conscience can one be?

Unlike suicide attacks, self-immolations are not intended to inflict physical harm to others or material damage to their property. They attract attention through unwavering self-sacrifice in pursuit of raising awareness about injustice and abuse by governments.

In India, where the practice is most widespread, as many as 1,451 and 1,584 self-immolations were reported in 2000 and 2001.

Since 2009, at least 120 Tibetans have self-immolated. The British-based rights organization Free Tibet says in 2012 alone, at least 80 such fiery protests took place. They are traditional not reported by the Chinese media.

Tuesday, a 37-year-old Tibetan monk set himself on fire outside a police station in response to brutality and corruption in Sichuan’s Dawu county, the third fatal self-immolation in eight days.

The previous day, a 20-year-old woman set herself on fire in Ngaba County in Sichuan, and last week, a 34-year-old man set himself ablaze in front of a police station in the western province of Gansu, which is also adjacent to Tibet.

In response to the incidents, Chinese police fired on Tibetan protesters campaigning against Chinese rule recently, Reuters reports.

A monk was shot in the arm after police used teargas and opened fire during a clash with Tibetans outside a police station in the western province of Sichuan, which borders Tibet, Free Tibet said today in a statement.

The group did not say when the violence happened and police in the area could not be reached for comment, Reuters says.

Tibetan activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which it has ruled strictly since People’s Liberation Army troops “peacefully liberated” the region in 1950.

Supporters of Chinese rule rejects such criticism however, saying the imperial presence ended serfdom in Tibet and brought development to a backward, poverty-stricken region.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not encourage the protests, but has praised the courage of those who have engaged. Meanwhile, the Chinese government claims that he and the Tibetan exiled government are inciting the acts.

Self-Immolation compilation: (Warning graphic)