Critical Commentary: Self-Immolation of Tibetan’s Continues

Posted on November 27, 2012 by


If you haven’t been living under a rock these past few months, you’ve most likely heard about the Tibetan people who are burning themselves alive in protest of the Chinese government’s rule in Tibet and the exile of the Dalai Lama.  The term used to describe these horrific deaths is “self-immolation,” which refers to the act of setting oneself on fire, often as a form of protest or for the purposes of martyrdom.  The purpose of these Tibetan self-immolations has been to protest the Chinese government’s strict control over Tibet’s Buddhist culture and it’s overwhelming security presence in Tibetan regions.

There have been about 80 Tibetan deaths resulting from self-immolation since 2009 with the most recent being a 27 year old herdsman who set himself on fire in China’s Qinghai province on November 23, 2012.  Even after these 80 cases of self-immolation, the Chinese government has made very few changes in their tolerance of certain Tibetan Buddhist cultural beliefs or considered the return of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhists to their homeland of Tibet.  You would think that after this many deaths the Chinese would agree to some kind of solution that would put an end to these gruesome deaths, but instead they have imposed punishments to self-immolators and their families.  One of the strict punishments is explained in a recent article and it states that “government aid to the family members of a person who had self-immolated will be cut off for three years.”  In my opinion, this kind of severe punishment won’t do anything to help decrease the number of self-immolations.  If the Tibetan people are willing to protest in such an extreme (setting themselves on fire), I doubt that taking away government aid will cause them to re-think their protesting techniques.  By taking away government aid, it could possibly lead to even more self-immolations. Family members of self-immolators who had also been contemplating setting themselves on fire in protest, could be forced to struggle through life if there government aid is taken away.  This gives them even more reason to go through with the self-immolation because it allows them to escape from the troubled life they would live without the government aid.

The article has a very informative tone so the author doesn’t present a clear view on what their opinion on the topic is.  However, if someone without any background information on the topic read the article, they would most likely feel sympathy for the Tibetans because of the harsh punishments that are listed out.

The Chinese government believes that the Tibetans need their “help” to keep Tibetan society free of Buddhist cultural influences since the Chinese government is extremely opposed to Buddhism and its influence on Tibetan culture.  I disagree with the Chinese government’s attempt to diminish the Buddhist influence in Tibet because they are eliminating the religious freedom that Tibetans are entitled to.  If Tibet has maintained a successful community with a Buddhist cultural influence for so long, I don’t see why China believes it must intervene and try to get rid of a religion that has worked for Tibetans.  One reason that China might be so strongly against allowing Tibet to become an autonomous state is that China would greatly benefit from the land gained by controlling Tibet.  Since China is so overpopulated, it would be able to make life more comfortable for its citizens by sending people into Tibet.  However, I believe the Tibetan people should be allowed to follow any religion they desire and shouldn’t have to change their religious views just because China needs to expand its territory and doesn’t want its people being influenced by Buddhism.  In order to stop the self-immolations, China needs to remove its influence in Tibet and come to terms with how Buddhism is the center of Tibetan cultural life and that by forcing Tibetans to deter from a religion they’ve known their whole lives, the protests will only get worse and continue to escalate.


– Matt Carlson





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