On Dec 19, Tsultrim Gyatso, a monk of Amchok monastery near the sprawling monastic town of Labrang Tashi Kyil in the ethnically Tibetan area of the Chinese province of Gansu, set himself on fire. The 43-year-old monk left behind a handwritten note that serves as his last political testament. The note calls for Tibetan unity and the return of the Dalai Lama to his homeland. With this latest self-immolation, since 2009, 125 Tibetans have set themselves on fire. All of them have expressed the same refrain: freedom for Tibet and return of the Dalai Lama.
As the world watches in horror these acts of fiery protest, Tibet experts have huddled into conferences to examine the causes of why Tibet is burning. The causes range from increasing alienation in a rapidly changing society to Chinese migrant workers swamping Tibetan population in the cities and towns on the plateau. Forced resettlement of nomads and rampant mining and the accompanying poisoning of river waters are another source of the bubbling discontent on the roof of the world.
The Chinese authorities are doing everything else except address these deep-seated Tibetan concerns. The authorities accuse the “Dalai clique” thousands of miles on the other side of the Himalayas of inciting self-immolation. They put Tibet under tighter restriction and greater surveillance and bar international media from reporting from the plateau and prevent information of the grim situation from flowing out of Tibet.
Certainly, China’s tacit encouragement of unemployed Chinese in neighbouring provinces to migrate to Tibet is an overwhelming fear amongst Tibetans who are increasingly marginalized from the economic boom in their homeland. The main beneficiaries are the migrant Chinese workers. Rampant mining and the damage done to the environment have driven several Tibetans to register their protest by setting themselves ablaze. The Chinese authorities’ unrelenting attitude to all these Tibetan concerns also feed Tibetan discontent. [Source]
Thubten Samphel is the director of the Tibet Policy Institute. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.