Final Project— Tibetan Self-Immolations

Posted on December 8, 2012 by


thumb.aspxSince February 2009, there have been 92 self-immolations done by Tibetan Buddhist monks.  The majority of people participating in this protest happen to be younger than 30 years old.  To most people this seems like a far off and extreme way to carry out protest, but to these Tibetan monks it serves as a very strong form of protest to display the unhappiness they have with the Chinese government and its repression of religion in Tibet.  The ultimate focus of Tibetans is to govern themselves, however difficult that seems to be playing out.  Lately, the self-immolations have become more and more prevalent in this East Asian society, showing that the situation is not necessarily getting any better.  The message these Tibetans are trying to send is that China cannot be trusted.  More recently, the United States have become involved and are asking China to reach out to the Dalai Lama and to solve this problem.

The difficulties between the Chinese government and Tibet are the source of many of the problems.  The tension comes from Tibetans wanting freedom, and China basically not wanting to give that up. Many Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have been forced to move into exile in hopes of protection.  The Chinese enforcement has cracked down on Tibet harder and harder as the days have gone on.  The Dalai Lama, being very well known as a peaceful person, persistently urges everybody to avoid violence at all costs.  But, those that remain in Tibet seem to lack the otherworldly patience that the Dalai Lama has.  These people look up to their leader for advice and guidance, but most of the articles out talk of how they are losing the trust in him.  A quote from National Geographic sums up the common Tibetan belief perfectly:

“Every other leader looks after his own country properly even if it means going to war,” fumes a Tibetan scholar in Dharamsala who did not want to be quoted by name. “Here we talk about world peace, about taking care of the whole world. What about taking care of our own country? Our leaders are more concerned about how to present themselves to the rest of the world—peace-loving and kind. If you care about your own country, you have to do everything for it: kill, cheat, lie, steal.”



Nearly every US article is written with an ideal of sympathy toward Tibetans and depict their battles and struggles.  In the US, nearly every article sides almost completely with the Tibetans.  The authors see this issue as a mass of unfairness toward Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhists especially.  The US government has even gone as far as reaching out to the Chinese in this time of crisis.  The US feels as though this is a major problem and that it needs to be fixed immediately.  This seems to make obvious sense if those protesting feel the need to ignite themselves in flame in order to get their point across, but it brought a thought of curiosity about what the Chinese felt and had to say about the situation.

dalai_lamaThis was a much harder viewpoint to find valid information on.  Nearly every report on the self-immolations talks of specific individuals and the reason for their action to protest against the government.   In many articles, China seems to act as though the extreme protests are not even actually happening.  They have even gone to an extreme of blaming the Dalai Lama himself for aiding in the leadership of these acts.  One article from says, “The Dalai Lama and his backers have long been involved in the manipulation of various violent riots in Tibet Autonomous Region and its neighbors. Their involvement is marked with terrorist tactics under the guise of preservation of Tibetan culture and religion.”  From a western perspective, I cannot see a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1989, for exactly the opposite reason, playing such a role.  He was given this prestigious award in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end China’s domination of his homeland.  There were a couple articles of the Beijing Journal that directly criticized him and his participation.

“They claim we are free to practice our religion, but in fact they keep pulling the reigns tighter and tighter so we can hardly breathe.”
–A Tibetan monk talking about Chinese interaction

Multiple sources point out the fact that the Chinese government has heightened law enforcement because of these events and has even gone as far as saying these monks should be punished.  China has also claimed that Tibet is indeed the happiest place in the PRC today.  The government claims that apart from the minimal percentage of agitators in the area, Tibetans remain satisfied with the society and oppose self-imm

olation.  Che Dalha, the Communist party secretary for Lhasa, claimed that the Tibetan capital was voted happiest in China and used the following song lyrics to describe how, “The sky is the bluest, the clouds are the whitest, the water is the cleanest and the people are the happiest. And he added, “and there are harmonious ethnic relations.”  Keep in mind that this information comes from an article in the Tibetan weekly, however credible that may be at this time.

Posted is the direct link to said article:

As one can see even just from reading any article about this issue, American media and Chinese media have extremely different views on the issue in Tibet.  I think it will be extremely interesting to see how these opposing views contribute to a solution to the problem.  I would hope that the Dalai Lama will be able to step in and help brighten things up.

YouTube video on the Tibetan self-immolations:





Posted in: Buddhism