1. What does self-immolation mean?
Self-immolation is a voluntary act of setting fire to oneself. In the case of Tibet, it is an act of protest against injustice and repression. The picture of the Vietnamese monk set alight is as vivid as that of the 2010 Tunisian fruit vendor. The former drew attention to the horrific Vietnam War while the latter gave birth to the Arab Spring. Many Chinese too have self-immolated to protest against their government. The ongoing unprecedented self-immolations by an increasing number of Tibetans in Tibet is part of this long-standing form of protest.
2. Who are the people self-immolating in Tibet?
The Tibetan people who are setting themselves on fire in protest were born and brought up under Chinese occupation. Most have never travelled outside Tibet. They include people from all walks of life – monks/nuns, students, mothers/fathers, nomads, farmers, and intellectuals, from across the three traditional provinces of Tibet: Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang. Fact Sheet on Tibetan Self-Immolation Incidents
3. Why are Tibetans self-immolating?
After 60 years of Chinese occupation and rule, government policies have failed to address the aspirations of the Tibetan people with their distinct cultural identity. Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people, current policies have led to political repression, economic marginalization, cultural assimilation and environmental destruction. Hence, in the absence of space for conventional forms of protests, Tibetans are compelled to resort to the dramatic action of setting themselves alight because they believe that is the only way left to them to get the world to notice the plight of their people.
4. What has His Holiness the Dalai Lama said about the self-immolations?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is deeply saddened by the self-immolations and hopes the international community and Chinese authorities will investigate the root causes behind these actions. As a staunch advocate for peace and non-violence, he has always discouraged any form of drastic actions and does not endorse any action involving the loss of lives. The non-violent nature of the Tibetan struggle is primarily due to his guidance and leadership. As per his vision, the Tibetan people wish to solve the issue of Tibet peacefully through dialogue based on the Middle Way Approach
5. What are self-immolators asking for?
The universal call of all the Tibetan self-immolators are for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the restoration of freedom for Tibetans. The Central Tibetan Administration seeks to realize these aspirations through the Middle Way Approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibetan areas, under a single administration, within the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China. A proposal based on the Middle Way Approach
is presented in the Memorandum for Genuine Autonomy
, which was submitted to the Chinese authorities in 2008 by Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A Note on the Memorandum
was subsequently submitted in 2010.
6. What are the main issues leading to the current situation in Tibet?
The current situation in Tibet stems from several decades of Chinese misrule in Tibet with poorly planned policies failing to address the aspirations of the Tibetan people. Factors leading to the present Tibetan discontent include political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalization, and environmental destruction. For further information see www.tibet.net
7. What is the position of the Central Tibetan Administration with regards to self-immolation?
As Tibetans, it is the moral and sacred duty of the CTA to stand in solidarity and highlight the aspirations of the Tibetan people around the world. As human beings and fellow Tibetan Buddhists, the CTA shares their grief and offer prayers as per tradition.
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has repeatedly appealed to Tibetans in Tibet to refrain from taking drastic actions such as self-immolation, still more than 92 Tibetans have self-immolated since February 2009, 79 in 2012 to date with 28 people in November 2012 alone. The Central Tibetan Administration has called upon the Chinese authorities to investigate and address the causes of these incidents. The CTA has also categorically denied any role in the spate of self-immolations in Tibet, and stated that the responsibility and solution for the present tragedy in Tibet lies entirely with Beijing. The Chinese leadership has the power to stop the self-immolations by addressing the basic grievances of Tibetans.
The CTA has repeatedly called on the international community to show solidarity and to raise their voices in support of the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people at this critical time. It has requested foreign governments and the United Nations to send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet, and that the international press be given access to Tibet.
Below are links to statements, press releases and video messages in which the CTA discourages resorting to drastic measures such as self-immolations.
CTA’s Statements and Press Releases on Tibetan Self-Immolations
1. CTA Releases White Paper on Self-Immolations February 2, 2013
2. Joint Press conference by Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Speaker of Tibetan Parliament Mr Penpa Tsering January 29, 2013
3. Statement of Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay on 23rd Anniversary of Conferment of Nobel Peace Prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama December 10, 2012
4. Statement of Kalon Tripa on 53rd Tibetan National Uprising Day March 11, 2012
5. CTA Refutes Allegations over Inciting Self-immolations, Welcomes China’s Investigative Team to visit Dharamsala to Prove Allegations December 10, 2012
6. CTA Welcomes UN’s Statement and Urges to Convene a Special Session of UN Human Rights Council November 3, 2012
7. Statement by Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay on the recent killings of Tibetans by the P.R. China’s government January 26, 2012
8. CTA Expresses Concern Over Self-Immolation Incidents March 27, 2012
9. Testimony of Dr. Lobsang Sangay Kalon Tripa, Central Tibetan Administration before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission November 04, 2011
1. Statement by Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay on recent Killings of Tibetans January 25, 2012
2. Kalon Tripa in Japan addressing at Foreign Correspondents Club April 2, 2012
3. Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay Launches Solidarity with Tibet Campaign December 8, 2012
4. THE BURNING QUESTION: Why are Tibetans Turning to Self-immolation? September 24, 2012
5. What’s China doing in Tibet? December 4, 2012
6. Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s Message on the Occasion of Losar (English) January 24, 2013
8. How are the international community and foreign governments responding?
We are encouraged by recent statements from various governments and international/regional bodies
. We have seen Tibet resolutions in parliaments and congress in EU, France, Italy and the United States; and supportive statements by parliamentarians in Australia, Brazil, Canada, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, South Africa, the United States and others. Undoubtedly, this is not enough. The democracies and the people of the world who recognize and uphold basic human rights and the universal right to freedom must intervene effectively and without delay, before the situation in Tibet deteriorates any further.
9. What is the United Nations doing about the situation inside Tibet?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, released in November 2012, a statement
urging the Chinese government to promptly address the long-standing grievances of the Tibetan people that have led to an alarming escalation in desperate forms of protest, including self-immolations in Tibet. Her statement also included a few recommendations made by international human rights bodies to the Government of China on Tibet, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter’s recommendation of suspension of non-voluntary resettlement of Tibetan nomadic herders and the UN Committee Against Torture’s recommendation that China conduct a thorough and independent inquiry into events surrounding the large-scale protests that began in March 2008.
10. How is self-immolation a non-violent form of protest?
Without causing harm or violence to others, Tibetan self-immolations are the ultimate selfless form of civil disobedience for a greater common cause. None of the self-immolators have harmed Chinese people and shops. The key question remains what is compelling them to self-immolate?
11. What can you do about the situation in Tibet?
To ensure that the world knows about current events in Tibet and has access to accurate information, please help us by doing the following:
- Share the links to the www.solidaritywithtibet.org web page and Facebook page with as many people as you can;
- Write to your elected representative/government and share your concern about the situation inside Tibet;
- Organize lectures or presentation in your community about the current situation in Tibet;
- Encourage local news outlets to cover the issue of Tibet;
- Find more suggestions of what you can do in the Outreach section.
As a supporter of the universal right to freedom and equality you can make a difference by creating more awareness about the ongoing tragedy in Tibet. Reach out to your elected representatives, your government, and urge them to help find a lasting solution to the problems in Tibet through dialogue between the Chinese leadership and the Central Tibetan Administration.
The case of Arab Spring is relevant to this point. The self-immolation of the Tunisian fruit seller is acclaimed as a catalyst for the Jasmine Revolution. The rest of the world, in its support of people’s movement, lent its moral, political and military support.