by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 5, 2012
China will charge anyone caught aiding or inciting Tibetan self-immolations with murder, state press said Wednesday, after more than 90 Tibetans set themselves alight in protest at Beijing's rule.
A joint legal opinion issued by China's supreme court, top prosecution body and police said the charge of "intentional murder" should apply to anyone urging Tibetans to set themselves alight, the state-run Gannan Daily reported.
Beijing regularly accuses the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, of inciting the burnings. He said last month that Beijing was more interested in criticising him than finding the reasons for the self-immolations.
The ruling comes alongside an already intense security crackdown in Tibetan-inhabited regions and could implicate Tibetan monks, family members of anti-China protesters, or sympathisers.
More than 90 Tibetans have set themselves alight since 2009 in protest at China's rule of the Tibetan plateau, with the incidents becoming more frequent this year and nearly 30 happening in November.
"The recent self immolations in Tibean areas are mutually linked to hostile forces in and out of China, they are plotted, organised and incited by separatist nations and are seriously odious incidents aimed at destroying ethnic unity (and) fomenting social disorder," the paper said.
"The legal opinion clearly points out that those criminals behind the scenes who plan, incite, aide, abet... and help those perpetrating self immolations will be investigated for criminal liability in the crime of intentional murder."
The Gannan Daily is the local government-run paper in Gannan prefecture, part of northwest China's Gansu province, where many of the November burnings took place.
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of repressing their religious freedom and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han Chinese ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
China insists that Tibetans are enjoying rising living standards and religious freedom in accordance with the law.
In Tokyo last month, the Dalai Lama said: "The Chinese government should investigate the cause. China does not look into it seriously and tries to end (the incidents) only by criticising me," according to a Kyodo News report in Japanese.
Last week, advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet said in London that a security crackdown aimed at ending the self-immolations was fuelling the protests.
China dismisses Nobel demands for Liu's release
Liu is serving 11 years in prison for inciting subversion and a battalion of Nobel winners from across six disciplines sent incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping an open letter urging him to free the activist.
"China is firmly opposed to the outside world interfering into China's judicial sovereignty and internal affairs in any form," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
"China is a country under the rule of law. Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to imprisonment by China's judicial authorities for violating the law."
In their letter, the 134 Nobel laureates noted that no government "can restrict freedom of thought and association without having a negative effect on... important human innovation".
They said they hoped China's new political leadership will "take concrete steps towards embracing the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens".
"An essential first step is the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia," they wrote.
Liu Xia has been held incommunicado under house arrest since October 2010, when her husband was awarded the prize. No charges have been brought against her.
Spokesman Hong refused to comment on her situation, but insisted that "the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals are protected by China's constitution and laws".
The open letter's signatories included Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (2010 Literature); East Timor's Jose Ramos-Horta (1996 Peace); and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984 Peace).
Liu, who was jailed previously for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in 2009 after co-authoring a bold manifesto for change in China.
China lashed out after his Nobel award and refused to allow him to attend the ceremony in Oslo -- where he was represented instead by an empty chair.
China News from SinoDaily.com
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