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Stepping up pressure, China blames Dharamshala for self-immolations

China has, for the first time, laid direct blame at the doorsteps of Dharamshala for the at least 11 self-immolation protests carried out by Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in western Sichuan province in recent months, even as it has concerned Indian officials by increasing pressure on New Delhi to limit Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama's activities in India.

“We have learned what is behind these events,” Zhang Yun, a researcher with the Chinese government-run China Tibetology Research Center, said on Tuesday in an article issued by the official Xinhua news agency.

‘Overseas plot'

The self-immolations, most of which took place near the Kirti monastery at Aba in Sichuan province, were an “overseas plot,” he said, pointing the finger at the exiled head of the Kirti monastery, who now lives in Dharamshala.

“The living Buddha of the Kirti Monastery, who fled in 1959 and has since lived in Dharamshala, India, has long exerted influence over the monastery,” he said adding that he “used to serve as a private secretary to the 14th Dalai Lama and religious head of the ‘Tibetan government-in-exile.'”

“After the deadly rioting in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, monks who fled the monastery established a “coordination team” to mastermind and organise operations,” he alleged.

The claims appear to be backed by the Chinese government, which has in recent weeks put unprecedented pressure on India to clamp down on the Dalai Lama's activities, surprising Indian officials.

While China has often called on countries to refuse visas and not host the Tibetan religious leader, on occasions even threatening economic repercussions, it has adopted a different approach to India, Dalai Lama's home since 1959, only calling on New Delhi to restrict “political” activities.

However, Indian officials are now wondering if Beijing has changed its stance towards India, in the wake of two recent high-profile attempts to curtail the Dalai Lama's involvement in religious gatherings that India has said had no political agenda.

Border talks deferment

Boundary talks between India and China that were scheduled to take place in New Delhi last week were postponed after China called on India to either cancel a Buddhist conference that was taking place in New Delhi at the same time or, at the very least, prevent the Dalai Lama from participating in it.

This was followed by the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata asking West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to refrain from attending a lecture by the Dalai Lama in honour of Mother Teresa. Mr. Narayanan subsequently attended the event, although Indian officials expressed concern over what they saw as a pattern of China attempting to exert increased pressure on the Dalai Lama's activities.

‘Instigation'

The Xinhua commentary on Tuesday said “the instigation by some overseas organisations, press and media institutions, the living Buddha and politicians also played a part” in the self-immolations.

“The so-called Tibetan ‘government-in-exile' is anxious about its failing efforts to split China; therefore, it has taken advantage of the lives of young monks and nuns to put pressure on the Chinese government,” it said.

China had accused “the Dalai group” for not criticising the self-immolations by young monks and “playing up” the issue to incite more people to follow suit, labelling it as “terrorism in disguise.”

The Dalai Lama has, however, stressed that he does not encourage monks to follow such a path, although he blamed China's restrictive policies for driving the monks and nuns to acts of desperation.

Last month, Palden Choetso (35) became the 11th Tibetan in recent months to carry out a self-immolation protest. She died after setting herself on fire at a road crossing in Dawu, in Sichuan's predominantly Tibetan prefecture of Kardze, or Ganzi in Chinese.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 10:05:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/stepping-up-pressure-china-blames-dharamshala-for-selfimmolations/article2692628.ece

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