‘We have “evidence” that self-immolations are organised by the Dalai Lama and groups in India’

It is in India’s interest to see stability in Tibet, a top official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Tibet has said, sidestepping questions about what “evidence” China has to link the Dalai Lama and exiled groups in India to the self-immolation protests since 2011.

“China and India are neighbours, tranquillity in Tibet and India [is our common objective],” said Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) People’s Congress, or legislature, in reply to a question from The Hindu about the more than 100 self-immolations in the Tibetan areas.

Mr. Choling, an ethnic Tibetan who has been one of the CPC’s key officials in the TAR, earlier serving as the regional chairman or governor, claimed that the government had “evidence” that the immolations were organised by the Dalai Lama and groups based in India. But the Chinese government is yet to release concrete details linking the incidents to the exiled spiritual leader, who has strongly denied the accusation.

Asked about the nature of the evidence, Mr. Choling merely said: “We have evidence, but it is not convenient to tell you now.”

Beyond the question of evidence, he added, the Dalai Lama had to bear some responsibility (for the protests) for refusing to condemn the agitations and by honouring self-immolators.

“No matter to whom we prove it to, be it a country or an organisation, we should first keep in mind that self-immolation is immoral and inhumane,” he told a group of reporters on the sidelines of the on-going annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) or parliament.

“Anyone who doesn’t stop it, but incites it and also gives the person some compensation to advocate it is immoral. That is what I want to say, and that may not be very satisfying.”

The Dalai Lama has called on Beijing to examine its policies in the Tibetan areas and has said China is trying to deflect attention from the problems by blaming overseas groups for the self-immolations, mainly in the Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.

He has also described the protests as a sensitive issue and refrained from condemning them out of sensitivity to the families of the protesters.

The protests have appeared to have rattled the authorities in the Tibetan areas, who have imposed a security blanket on many counties in Sichuan, Gansu and in the TAR, restricting travel, increasing the number of security personnel deployed and barring journalists.

The protests spread beyond the monasteries in Sichuan where they first began in 2009, with students, farmers and ordinary Tibetans, besides monks and nuns, setting themselves on fire.

On Friday, TAR officials said they would crack down on protesters. “We will always place maintaining stability as our top priority and keep on crackdowns on all secessionist forces and sabotage activities,” said chairman of the TAR government Losang Jamcan.

Qiangba Puncog, TAR vice-party secretary and among the highest-ranked Tibetan officials in the regional government which is headed by party chief Chen Quanguo, said the government had “abundant evidence that the groups in China and outside China are working with each other.”

Last month, the authorities in Sichuan, where the most number of immolations had taken placed, sentenced a 40-year-old monk to death, with a two-year reprieve, for allegedly inciting monks to protest and sending videos of the protests to monks in India. His nephew received a 10-year jail term.

However, officials have so far linked less than a dozen of the more than 100 incidents to exiled monks.

Mr. Puncog said, “I am not saying 100 per cent of incidents were planned directly. Treating self-immolators as heroes and praying for them and reciting sutras for them, all have an indirect connection with the Dalai Lama.”

He said monks in the TAR were not involved in any protest.

One protest that took place near Lhasa’s famous Jokhang temple was said to have involved monks from Sichuan.

“Tibet has more than 1,700 temples and 46,000 monks,” he said. “None of them has seen self-immolation.”

Keywords: China-Tibet row