As Tibetan self-immolations rise, Beijing tightens grip

Sun Dec 9, 2012 4:14pm EST
 
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - As the number of self-immolations in restive Tibetan regions rises sharply, Beijing appears to be tightening rules against the anti-China protests despite hopes the new leadership may take a softer line against Tibet.

Some experts have said Communist Party chief Xi Jinping -- whose former vice premier father had a close bond with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama -- might adopt a more reformist approach to the troubled mountainous region when he takes over as president in March.

But so far, the anti-China protests, including 81 burning cases this year, have only been met with an intensified crackdown by Chinese security forces.

Beijing has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the remote region suffered from dire poverty, brutal exploitation of serfs and economic stagnation until 1950 when Communist troops "peacefully liberated" it.

The country's top court and public security authorities have now issued a directive that allows for criminal charges, including intentional homicide, to be filed against self-immolators and anyone who "organizes, plots, incites, coerces, entices, abets, or assists others" in such protest.

An official southwestern Gansu province newspaper explained the order on its website last week, saying authorities should prevent people from gathering to mourn a self-immolator or collect money for family members.

State media reported on Sunday that police in Sichuan province detained a Tibetan monk and his nephew for "inciting" eight people to set themselves on fire since 2009.

There has been a steep increase in cases of self immolation this year, and in November alone -- when Xi was named the new head of the Party -- 29 people set themselves on fire.   Continued...

 
A monk reacts as he participates in a debate as part of Tibetan New Year celebrations at a temple in Langmusixiang, Sichuan Province February 22, 2012. As the number of self-immolations in restive Tibetan regions rises sharply, Beijing appears to be tightening rules against the anti-China protests despite hopes the new leadership may take a softer line against Tibet. Picture taken February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria