Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Igniting Further Tensions

On March 16 a Tibetan monk set himself on fire in an apparent protest against the repressiveness of the Chinese government in Aba county in Sichuan Province.

And yet three other monks were convicted Monday of being his accessories to murder and sentenced to 10, 11 and 13 years in prison.

The uncle of the monk called Drongdru, was imprisoned for 11 years for "intentional homicide" in hiding the 16-year-old monk, Phuntsog, while the other two were sentenced for "plotting, instigating and assisting" in the immolation.

However some people don't agree with how the government claims they were accessories to murder.

Tibetan rights groups report witnesses saw the monk set himself on fire and then they put out the flames but then started beating him. At that point monks and local residents took the monk to the monastery before taking him to the hospital. Phuntsog died the next day.

Afterwards there were protests near the monastery resulting in heavy police presence.

However it's these verdicts that are only going to exacerbate the already high tensions in the area.

"We urge Chinese leaders to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension and to protect Tibetans' unique linguistic, cultural and religious identity," a US state department statement said.

Tibetans are resentful of the Han Chinese coming into their areas not just through population but also an influx of money thinking economic development will make the ethnic minority not only happier but also grateful for bringing them into the modern era.

But it seems Tibetans are happy with their nomadic, simple existence and don't want to see their culture and religion diluted by their Chinese rulers.

As a result there is a clash of values with the Han Chinese unwilling to compromise or to understand what Tibetans want or need, creating tensions that escalated to riots in 2008.

Since then the Chinese government has been very wary of Tibetan unrest and has forced monks to undergo "patriotic education".

Monks immolating themselves is rare and even the Dalai Lama condemns it. But a handful have turned to this painful and frightening act as a silent protest against Chinese policies.

And so with these latest rulings of jailing others who may have assisted in this immolation may serve as a warning for other monks not to protest, otherwise their fellow brothers will be jailed for their actions.

This will sure lead to even more tensions in the area and extreme measures.

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