On 27th March this year the160thknown cases of self-immolation
by Tibetan youths, monks and nuns over recent years came to the
world notice. On one hand this spate of self-immolations reflects
ever-growing anger of ordinary Tibetans against theChinese
colonial rule. But on the other hand a complete silence among
world governments puts a question mark over world community’s
commitment towards human rights and the ‘rule of law’.

It was an 81 year old Tibetan this time who, despite the presence of a highly vigilant Chinese
security apparatus in the East Tibetan town of Ngaba, succeeded in consigning his own body to
fire in order to register his anger and protest against the Chinese colonial rule over his country.
But he also happens to be the 160th known case in which the Tibetans succeeded in daring act of
self-immolation but failed to raise the conscience of a world community which takes pride in
claiming to be living in the most democratic and justice loving era of human history. On 27th of
March, Tashi Phuntsok, better known by his shortened Tibetan name ‘Taphun,’ poured petrol on
himself and consigned himself to flames in front of the local Chinese police station inNgaba town
which is the home to the world famous Tibetan Buddhist Kirti monastery.
Exactly a month earlieron 27th February this year, TsewangNorbu, a 25 year old popular Tibetan
singer too had taken his own life by self-immolation in front of the historicPotala Palace in Lhasa,
the capital of Tibet. Like Tsephun he too was shouting ‘China Quit Tibet’ and ‘May Dalai Lama
return to Tibet’ as the Chineseagents of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), who are omnipresent
in uniforms and plain clothes in every nook and corner of Tibet, pounced upon his burning body
and whisked him away. Initially the Chinese government and media maintained a stone silence
over these events as the movement of information and people in both towns remained frozen for
days together.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), and international broadcaster from Washington DC in USA,
the Chinese authorities refused to share any information on both of these events. They even refused
to confirm that any such event had happened at all. But the details, slowly filtering out of Tibet in
following days have confirmed that both protesters later died under police custody.
Tibetan Diaspora and the International observers who have been closely following the
developments inside Tibet are of the opinion that both of these incidents reflect how the Chinese
security apparatus has left no scope for any collective expression of anger and desperation by the
Tibetan people against what they are going through under Chinese occupation since 1951.
Reacting to these two events in Tibet Gonpo Dhundup, President of Tibetan Youth Congress
(TYC) said, “The presence of millions of CCTV cameras and security agents in today’s Tibet has
left no chance for ordinary Tibetan people to collect at a place and jointly express their unhappiness
against the suppressive Chinese colonial rule. Digital vigilance through the compulsory ‘smart
card’ which every Tibetan is supposed to carry with him or her and the use of most modern
techniques like Artificial Intelligence have only made it worse for the Tibetan masses. That is why
we are noticing a spate of individual actions like self-immolation after the Beijing Olympics2008.”
Gonpo would remind you of the case of Mohamed Bouazizi, a petty shopkeeper of Tunisia whose
self-immolation in 2011 had given rise of the ‘Arab Spring’ in over a dozen countries of the Middle
East. He also recalls a similar case of self-immolation by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich
Quang Duc whose act of burning himself in public finally lead to the retreat of mighty American
army from Vietnam. “But the way the world governments and international institutions have
shown abject indifference to 160 known cases of self-immolation inside Chinese occupied Tibet
has exposed the hypocrisy of the world community,” adds Gonpo.
Starting in 2009, most of known160 cases of self-immolations inside Tibet the incidents have
ended up in the death of the Tibetan protester. A large majority among them were youths, monks
and nuns. Tibetan exile sources fear that the real number of self-immolations is much higher
because many incidents of unsuccessful or semi-successful self-immolations have remained
unknown to the outer world because of the strong Chinese control over flow of information
between Tibet and the rest of world. In the case of Shurmo, a 26 year old Tibetan who had set
himself on fire and died in September 2015 in his home town Nagchu, the news of his death was
known only five and a half year later in January 2021.
Interestingly the latest case of self-immolation by Taphun has happened in the Kham province of
Tibet which, according to Beijing, is ‘China’ and not ‘Tibet’ because a major part of Kham has
been assimilated in the Chinese Sichuan province after China reorganized the geography of Tibet
in 1962 to carve out what it now calls ‘Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)’ as the ‘real Tibet’. The
sudden spurt in self-immolations started in 2009 after China had concluded the 2008-Olympics
and the security system of the Chinese Communist Party had started revising its strategy to contain
Tibetan public resistance against their Chinese masters. At the time of pitching for 2008-Olympics
by China there were international uproar against the dismal Chinese human rights record within
China and its colonies like Tibet, Xinjiang and South Mongolia. To assuage this anger among the
human rights supporters the IOC and certain western governments who were supporting China in
its Olympic bid had assured that hosting of such a huge international sports event would help and
encourage the Chinese government to improve the human rights conditions in China and its
But throwing all its assurances to the wind, China has only deepened its security grip and digital
surveillance system over its occupied regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, South Mongolia – even Hong
Kong – further after the Beijing Olympics-2008. That explains why more than 160 Tibetan youths,
monks and nuns had to take to a ‘single-wolf’ action like self-immolation to express the evergrowing anger of ordinary Tibetans against their colonial masters. On one hand this spate of selfimmolations reflects the anger of ordinary Tibetans against their colonial Chinese masters. But on
the other hand a complete silence among the world governments against this spate of selfimmolations in Tibe tputs a question mark over world community’s claims about human rights
and ‘rule of law’.

News Desk

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