Self Immolation: Which side are you on?

Posted on November 22, 2013 by

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The New York Times article, written by Edward Wong, discusses the questions surrounding self immolation and specifically self immolations occurring in the Tibetan Monastery Kirti. The main religion in focus is Buddhism. The cover photo for the article shows Monks, draped in the Crimson robes customary at the Kirti Monastery. The monks in the picture are all huddled together and look fearful, looking back behind them as if they are running into the building and something is chasing them. The beginning of the article describes three different monks, describing things they liked to on a daily basis, before they set fire to themselves. The three monks described in the beginning of the article were all monks at the Kirti Monastary, an institution on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau.

Throughout the article there seems to be sympathy toward the Tibetan monks, who are protesting the Chinese military control of Tibetan cities, especially monasteries. The article goes into detail discussing Tibetan movements, but goes into great detail discussing the Chinese military movement. The article in general seems to side with the Tibetans. The most frequently used words are military and security, discussing the Chinese involvement trying to prevent the self immolations. For example “The Ngaba exiles here say the security measures have been imposed on the town and monastery have been extreme, even by the standards of Chinese control in Tibet. Or, “Chinese military units are now posted on every block of town of Ngaba, and Kirti is under lockdown”.

In the article it appears the author has had actual interviews with monks or local Tibetans living in areas under Chinese control. There are direct quotes from monks, one monk specifically, who agreed to under the condition that only his first name be used in the article for fear of his safety. Some of the facts regarding numbers of Tibetans who have self immolated have come from the International Campaign for Tibet.  The International Campaign for Tibet is an organization that works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet (SaveTibet).  With stats from the International Campaign for Tibet, and interview quotes from an actual monk in the Kirti monastery, the article certainly portrays the Tibetans and the monks specifically as the “good guys”. The emotional bias leans toward the suffering of the Tibetans. One of the pictures in the article shows a Tibetan woman weeping during a protest against the visit of the Chinese president.

Upon research of the Author Edward Wong, I learned that he is a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and he moved to the Time’s Beijing bureau in 2008 to report on China’s politics, economy, environment, military, foreign policy and culture. The title of the article itself specifically says what way the author was going to portray the information: “In Occupied Tibetan Monastery, a Reason for Fiery Deaths”. I find it a little bit interesting that a writer working out of the Chinese capital would have such sympathy for the people of Tibet and give virtually no thoughts from the Chinese side of self immolation. But I guess that’s what causes an issue like this, a group of people not understanding others point of view.

Wong, E. (2012). In occupied tibetan monastery, a reason for fiery deaths. The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/world/asia/wave-of-tibet-self-immolations-challenges-chinese-rule.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&

Our mission- international campaign for tibet. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.savetibet.org/about-ict/our-mission/

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Posted in: Buddhism