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Spike in Tibetan self-immolations draws international attention to China

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Their protests are dramatic illustrations of the frustration that many Tibetans living under Chinese rule – not just in the area designated as the Tibet Autonomous Region but across a wide swathe of western China – feel about the way the authorities treat them.

High on their list of grievances a lack of control over their ancestral lands, subjugation to Chinese economic interests, and a lack of respect for Tibetan language and culture. 

An unusual student demonstration on Monday broke out in Qinghai Province protesting the distribution of an official booklet referring to the Tibetan language as “irrelevant” and to the wave of self-immolations as “acts of stupidity,” according to reports by US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

Campaign to stop self-immolations

In Huangnan, another ethnically Tibetan part of Qinghai, the authorities have stepped up a campaign to stop the self-immolations, according to Human Rights Watch. The group published a local government decree it said had appeared two weeks ago on TV ordering the cancellation of “all benefits received by the households of self-immolators under public benefit policies,” and announcing that “all projects running on state funds in self-immolators’ villages must be stopped.” 

Some influential Tibetan leaders in China too have appealed for an end to the self-immolations. Radio Free Asia this week quoted a statement issued by a group of lamas and teachers in Tongren, where many of this month’s self-immolations have occurred, appealing for a halt to the deaths.

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