. China News .

China's own Lama still on charm offensive
by Staff Writers
Beijing (UPI) Jan 18, 2013

2nd Tibetan self-immolates in China in a week: groups
Beijing (AFP) Jan 20, 2013 - A young Tibetan in southwestern China has died after setting himself on fire, rights groups have reported, marking the second self-immolation protest in a week and lifting the total to nearly 100.

London-based Free Tibet said in a statement Saturday that a 28-year-old man identified by the single name Dupchoek, died Friday afternoon in Drachen township in the Aba Tibetan autonomous prefecture of China's Sichuan province.

Free Tibet said that 97 Tibetans have self-immolated since February 2009 to protest against Beijing's rule in Tibet. According to a list on the group's website, about 75 of them have died.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, also reported the self-immolation at the same location, though identified the man by the single name of Tsering and described him as being in his twenties.

US-based Radio Free Asia identified the dead man as 28-year-old Tsering Phuntsok.

There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in names. Other details of the three reports were broadly similar.

Radio Free Asia also said 97 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since February 2009.

The latest self-immolation followed the burning to death on January 12 of a young Tibetan man in northwestern Gansu province, the first reported case since early December.

Authorities have sought to crack down on the trend by arresting those it accuses of inciting such acts, and has ordered judicial bodies to charge anyone aiding or abetting them with murder.

State media reported on Tuesday that Gansu police had arrested seven people who allegedly incited a 26-year-old ethnic Tibetan man to set himself ablaze in October last year.

The rate of self-immolations spiked in November in the lead-up to the Chinese Communist Party's once-a-decade power handover, where Xi Jinping was named party chief.

Beijing routinely accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his "clique" of inciting such acts of protest to push a separatist agenda.

The Dalai Lama, who says he is not seeking Tibetan independence but greater autonomy, fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising. He has since based himself in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala.

The 11th Panchen Lama, Beijing's chosen spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, paid his respects to Chinese revolutionaries during a trip to northeast Heilongjiang Province.

Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, who is also vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, paid homage to "revolutionary martyrs" at a monument, a report by a report by the state-run news agency Xinhua said.

The controversial leader left a note in Tibetan that read, "heroes' flesh and blood constitute today's happy life," Xinhua said.

Erdini's trip to Heilongjiang is the latest charm offensive excursion to show solidarity between Buddhists, mainly from Tibet and surrounding regions, and other religious and ethnic groups, since he was given official political status nearly three years ago.

He also praised an exhibition "showcasing evidence of Japanese troops' criminal behavior" during Japan's brutal occupation of the Heilongjiang region, called Manchuria in 1931 when Japanese troops marched in.

The Panchen Lama, 23, "promised to carry on the patriotic and religious traditions handed down from his predecessors to make contributions to ethnic unity and the country's prosperity," Xinhua said.

His work includes numerous visits to restive Tibet where in the past several years a series of self-immolations to protest against Chinese rule has caused concern for the central government in Beijing.

In March 2010 the Panchen Lama -- formerly the Tibetan monk Gyaincain Norbu -- was appointed by Beijing to China's top advisory body, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

He was one of 13 new members of the national committee of the CPPCC whose more than 2,000 members are private entrepreneurs, academics, celebrities and other public figures including religious and cultural. The CPPCC doesn't make laws or appoint officials but its members have acknowledged influence with senior government officials and lawmakers.

It's open to question to what extent the Panchen Lama's authority is recognized by ordinary Tibetans, many of whom revere the Dalai Lama, the self-exiled and media friendly top Buddhist spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama's followers believe Beijing's Panchen Lama is a pretender, approved by the government as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in November 1995.

Lorang was picked "after a lot-drawing ceremony among three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa," Chinese media reported at the time.

However, the Panchen Lama -- loosely translated as "great scholar" -- traditionally is chosen by the Dalai Lama, whose own chosen one in 1995 was a 6-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.

But Nyima along with his immediate family disappeared shortly after the Dalai Lama proclaimed him the 11th Panchen Lama.

Some reports suggest he is under protective custody or house detention in Beijing. Few facts exist concerning his whereabouts.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a terrorist who foments separatist sentiments in the Autonomous Region of Tibet, as Tibet is known within China since the Chinese army marched into the country in the 1950s.

The Chinese government reserves some of its highest vitriol for political leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama who hold meetings with the globe-trotting Dalai Lama.

In particular, Beijing claims the Dalai Lama is urging Tibetans to self-immolate as a protest against occupation by the Chinese.

In December a report in China Daily said police in China's southwest Sichuan province, adjacent to Tibet, claimed a monk and his nephew incited a series of self-immolations on orders of the Dalai Lama.

Since 2009 Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk at the Kirti Monastery in Aba county, is alleged to have encouraged eight people to set themselves on fire, three of whom died.

Lorang and his 31-year-old nephew acted on the instructions of the Dalai Lama and his followers, according to his own confession and a police investigation, China Daily reported. He also allegedly sent pictures of the burning people to foreign Tibet independence groups.

The Dalai Lama continues to deny he incites self-immolation and questions its usefulness as a protest tool.

The Panchen Lama, too, has called for calm and for religious people to promote harmony in Tibet.

In July, after a series of fatal self-immolations, Lorang called for religious people should abide by the laws and religious codes of conduct, Xinhua reported at the time.

"If a person doesn't protect social stability, he isn't fit to be called a man of religion," he reportedly told leaders of Tibet at a meeting in his residence in the capital city Lhasa.

But self-immolations continue. Tibetan exile group Free Tibet estimates that since March 2011 at least 90 people have set themselves on fire, of which 77 have died.

The first death this year was Tsering Tashi, 22, who died at the scene in Achok Township, eastern Tibet, Free Tibet said.


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