Bloomberg News

U.S. Urges China to Ease Tibet Policy After Nun’s Immolation

October 20, 2011

(Updates with Chinese foreign ministry comment in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. repeated a call for China to respect human rights and particularly “the rights of Tibetans” after a ninth young Tibetan set herself on fire in protest at Chinese rule.

“We urge Chinese leaders to address counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions; and to protect Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity,” the State Department’s press office said in a statement yesterday. Tibetan protest in China has focused in the central province of Sichuan since Chinese forces in April arrested what Tibetan human rights groups say were more than 300 Buddhist monks from the Kirti Monastery there.

Tenzin Wangmo, 20, a Buddhist nun in the province’s Aba County, called Ngaba by Tibetans, died after immolating herself on Oct. 17, according to the Tibetan government in exile headed by the Dalai Lama. Eight Buddhist monks from Aba, ranging in age from 19 to 29, have carried out similar protests since April, the exiled administration says. Five of the protesters have died and “the condition and whereabouts of the other four are unknown,” the exile government’s prime minister, Lobsang Sangay, said yesterday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said today in Beijing that Tibet is an issue internal to China, which will oppose interference on the matter from other countries.

"There’s no such thing as a ‘Tibetan question’ as played up by some forces," Jiang told journalists in a briefing.

Flag Protests

Tibetans in Aba have held street demonstrations and strikes, displaying the Tibetan flag and pictures of the Dalai Lama according to Bahukutumbi Raman, an Indian security analyst and retired intelligence officer who monitors Tibetan affairs. Tibetans are seeking political autonomy and the return to their Himalayan homeland of the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing in 1959 from China’s military takeover of Tibet.

Tibetans say China is attacking their culture, religion and environment with policies that have moved thousands of ethnic Han Chinese into Tibet in the name of economic development. Protests have increased since riots broke out across the region in 2008. While the Dalai Lama has urged Tibetans to avoid violence, China accuses him of secretly seeking independence for Tibet, which forms a quarter of China’s territory.

Chinese security restrictions in Sichuan “have turned critical as many people were either detained, arrested or imprisoned,” Sangay told a prayer meeting yesterday in memory of the dead protesters.

--Editors: Mark Williams, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.


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