Tibetans have’sacred duty’ to support self-immolations

NEW DELHI — As the 18th congress of China’s Communist Party began in Beijing this week, six more Tibetans set … Continued

NEW DELHI — As the 18th congress of China’s Communist Party began in Beijing this week, six more Tibetans set themselves on fire as Tibetan leaders say they are powerless to stop a growing wave of self-immolations.

In fact, exiled Tibetan political leader Lobsang Sangay said that while he highly discourages the drastic action, it is the “sacred duty” of the exiled community to support it.

“We have made so many appeals (to stop self-immolations), but they are still doing it,” said Sangay, the political successor of the Dalai Lama, as the number of self-immolations by monks, nuns and others swelled to 68 since March 2011.

The day before Beijing opened its party conference on Thursday (Nov. 8) to choose new leaders, three monks, a man, a woman and a teenager drank gasoline and set themselves ablaze, according to tibet.net.

Sangay, a former scholar at Harvard Law School, said he has always maintained that Tibetans inside Tibet should not protest because of harsh consequences. Exiles, however, are a different story.

“But once a protest takes place, it becomes our sacred duty to support it,” he recalled saying when he was sworn in as the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, on Aug. 8, 2011. “I take the same stand on self-immolations.”

The Tibetan leader said the world needs to focus on the cause behind the act, not just the act itself.

“Self-immolators are telling the Chinese government that repression is unbearable. They are saying,’We grew up under under your system, we are supposedly the primary beneficiaries of whatever you are doing in Tibet, and it’s not good; it’s not worth living under the system.’”

Sangay added he does not try to “venture into Buddhist philosophy” to explain self-immolation, but views it as “a form of protest … like the monks who self-immolated during the Vietnam war, and the self-immolation in Tunisia that was the catalyst for the Arab Spring.”

However, there is a religious element, he agreed. “They have not harmed Chinese people, offices or shops because they are Buddhist and part of a non-violent movement.”

Beijing, which has claimed Tibet as part of China since it overtook the country in 1959, has accused Tibetan exiles and the “Dalai clique” of encouraging self-immolations.

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  • persiflage

    ‘In fact, exiled Tibetan political leader Lobsang Sangay said that while he highly discourages the drastic action, it is the “sacred duty” of the exiled community to support it.’

    Absolute nonsense. Suicide for whatever reason never resolved a single political issue. It’s interesting that a noted Buddhist would support it, because it is without doubt a form of murder – albeit of oneself.

    While I support anyone’s right to take their own life, taking it as a form of political protest is sheer misguided stupidity and a wasted life. LIke other primates, humans have a habit of easily following the example of others, for better or worse.

  • Interested60

    Wouldn’t you say that such drastic actions are those of desperate people? People with no other means of attracting attention to their struggle, pain and misery? Misguided? Maybe, wasted life, maybe so too although I doubt these people feel that way. People who go to war and die are also making a stand for what they believe is right and we honour them for that, true it is somewhat different but how different really? It certainly has publicised the plight of the Tibetan people and encouraged debates on the issues, not a waste in the long run?

  • persiflage

    This is how I see it -

    Self-immolation doesn’t resolve political issues. It was tried by Buddhists in Vietnam and we know how that turned out. The same inevitable outcome occurred in Tibet when the country was invaded by the communist Chinese back in the 1950′s. People in the West generally loathe and despise the Chinese for it’s hostile takeover of Tibet, but have no real power to re-install Tibetan rule, for the obvious reason that China and it’s vast population are now a world/economic power to be reckoned with. When something might have been done a generation ago, no one cared.

    The Dalai Lama will necessarily remain an inspirational religious figurehead from afar as will his entourage and his eventual successor – at least for the foreseeable future. The USA has the ongoing job of keeping China from over-running Taiwan, but the state of affairs in Tibet is a fait accompli. In the end, internal resistance to totalitarian domination is always better acomplished by the living.