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TIBETAN PROTESTS AMID HU JINTAO'S VISIT TO DELHI

Hu Jintao, the president of PRC arrived in New Delhi on 28 March to participate in the BRICS summit, but it triggered a series of activities in Dharamshala, which is the nerve centre for various Tibetan groups working across the globe and home to Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Most of the Tibetan shops remained closed for the whole day and special prayers were organised by various Tibetan groups, which later concluded with candle light vigils. Tibetan parliamentarians and other officials of the government-in-exile attended prayers in the late evening organized by the Central Tibetan Administration.

A couple of days prior to the arrival of Hu Jintao, Jamphel Yeshi, a Tibetan youth who had fled Kham Tawu village in Eastern Tibet in 2006 and settled in Majnu Ka Tila’s Tibetan colony had set himself ablaze ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Delhi. Later, Yeshi succumbed to burns at a Hospital, a few hours before Hu Jintao landed. He is likely to be given a martyr’s funeral by the Tibetan Community in India. According to his friends, “Yeshi kept saying we should never forget our roots and that we have a cause”. A group of protesting Tibetans attempted to storm a five-star hotel where Chinese president is staying but were detained by police. Eleven activists were picked up from near Oberoi Hotel while eight girls were prevented from proceeding towards the facility where Hu Jintao is staying.

Asked about China’s reaction to the self-immolation bid on the eve of BRICS summit to be attended by President Hu, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Hong Lei told that the Dalai group was sparing no efforts to incite Tibet independence activities by creating various troubles including self immolation both inside and outside Tibet. He added that such behaviour for Tibet independence splittist political scheme was doomed to fail and would be strongly condemned by the international community.

Since the start of 2011, some 30 people many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire to protest what many consider to be religious and political repression by Beijing. A 20-year-old monk , Lobsang Sherab became the 31st Tibetan in China shouting slogans to highlight Beijing’s “discriminatory” policies on Tibetans as he self-immolated in Cha Township in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture

It may be recalled that Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay gave a clarion call to the Tibetan community on the 53rd Anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day on 10 March – which was also the 4th anniversary of the 2008 Mass protests in Tibet – that Tibetan unity, sprit and identity inside Tibet remained unbroken and called up on Tibetans community to sustain the movement till freedom was restored .

Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden remarked that it provided further evidence that Tibetans now feel that setting fire to themselves was their only recourse and added that the international community must “hold China accountable for its gross human rights violations in Tibet and demonstrate a genuine determination to end this oppression”.

However, China contends that it has provided development to Tibet and accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting unrest.

(It is a fact that the Chinese authorities have over the decades sunk billions of dollars into “developing” Tibet and other Tibetan-occupied areas in China, but the one thing that all this money hasn’t been able to buy them is the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people who are devoted to the Tibetan culture, identity and their loyalty to the Dalai Lama.)

Last week, the Chinese Officials in Tibet likened the Dalai Lama to “cruel Nazis” and claimed that his actions were “similar to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews.” Chinese authorities have hitherto refused to see the Tibetan uprising as anything more than a secessionist movement and a law and order problem, which merited the most brutal crackdown. Before the Dalai Lama gave up his political role as the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, he had repeatedly made clear that he only saw a future for Tibet within China; all he sought was a genuine autonomy and a preservation of the Tibetan culture. Yet, the Chinese authorities refused to engage him, effectively sidelining him from the political process. But the vacuum created by the Dalai Lama’s exit from the political platform is at risk of being filled in by younger elements who have lost all hope. It is that collective frustration that is manifesting itself in the form of self-immolations.

Further, China has hit out at a bill approved by a US Senate committee that would call on Beijing to ease restrictions in Tibetan region following a wave of self-immolations. Under the resolution, the Senate would state that it mourns the protesters who have died, deplore “the repressive policies targeting Tibetans” and urge Beijing to release all “arbitrarily detained” people.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the resolution among a series of bills that touch on Iran, Sudan and Syria. It has sent these to the full Senate, which is likely to approve them soon. Refuting these allegations, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

“The Chinese government is committed to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of people of all ethnic groups, and the protection of citizens’ religious freedom. We urge these Congressmen to recognise facts, discard prejudice and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs. They should do more things to contribute to China-US relations instead of the contrary.” (It may not be out of place to mention here the observations of former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal: “The irony is that in the past we have stood on the side, explicitly or implicitly, of China, Sudan, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Iran, Syria and so on by voting against or abstaining on resolutions. Are these countries closer to us than Sri Lanka? If we had to move from principle to pragmatism on human rights issues, should we have begun with Sri Lanka, where bilateral sensitivities are far more acute than in any other case? Once we drift from our moorings of principle at Geneva, we will not be able to escape taking up positions on human rights issues involving specific countries. Tomorrow how will we justify not voting against Iran, or for that matter China?”)

Hu Jintao is a natural target for the Tibetan community because it was he who in 1989, as the Communist Party Secretary in Tibet, oversaw the crackdown on a peaceful uprising against Chinese rule. The latest wave of self-immolation protests, which arguably violates the Buddhist precepts of non-violence and the preservation of life, symbolises the growing frustrations of the Tibetans over the Chinese rule and the persecution in Tibet. The protests and self immolation of the Tibetan in Delhi have indeed added to the summer heat of Delhi in according a very warm welcome to Hu Jintao.

(The Writer,MR. N.Raghupathy, is based in Bangalore & analyses Tibetan affairs. Email:nraghupathy@yahoo.com)

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