Two Tibetan Teenagers Self-Immolate
On the 27th August 2012, two Tibetan teenagers set themselves on fire outside a monastery in the South West province of China, Sichuan. 17 year old Lobsang Kalsang, a Buddhist monk, and 18-year-old Damchoek, a former monk, both condemned the Chinese policies in Tibet shouting slogans before self-immolating, later dying from their injuries. Their deaths bring the recorded number of Tibetan self-immolations to 51 since 2005, 34 of which have happened in the last year alone.
Nearly all of the desperate self-immolaters drink kerosene and splash it over their bodies before setting themselves alight. Many even wrap themselves in barbed wire to make it harder for the police, who carry fire extinguishers, to stop them. However, as the Chinese have forbidden access to outsiders, it is difficult to gauge just what is going on.
Since being invaded by China in 1950, Tibet has been faced with oppression and human rights violations including restrictions on religious freedoms and freedom of information. Although Beijing have disagreed, stating that the province has benefited from improved living standards brought on by China’s economic expansion and still enjoys a religious freedom.
This recent wave of self-immolations has been blamed by China's leaders on the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' spiritual leader who was exiled in 1959 fleeing to India. China’s leaders believe that the Dalai Lama is encouraging protest and inciting separatism. As such any person that is found self-immolating is branded by Chinese government as a terrorist and their protesting actions are seen as criminal.
Yet such blame has been rejected by both the Dalai Lama and activist groups. They see the self-immolations as one of the most powerful forms of protest against tight Chinese control of the region and religious repression. This rising number, “indicates a new level of desperation” stated Amnesty International.
Director of Free Tibet, Stephanie Brigden has said: “Tibetans’ fundamental human rights are being ignored by international leaders who are afraid of risking their relationships with China.
“The time has come for each one of us to speak up and demand Tibetan freedom."