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Dec 14, 2012 | 17:33 GMT

Self-Immolation in Tibet

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Self-Immolation in Tibet

Many of the nearly 100 self-immolations that have occurred in Tibetan areas of China since March 2011 have been attributed to a form of protest calling for a "Free Tibet" and the return of the Dalai Lama. The use of self-immolation as a protest tool is only successful when the act is carried out in a fairly populated area to ensure that the message is heard. However, not all the self-immolations reported in the Tibetan areas of China have followed this guideline, raising questions as to the real intent behind some of the self-immolations. At least 11 of the reported self-immolations took place under circumstances far from ideal for spreading a message of protest to a wider public. One of the most recent examples occurred Nov. 22, when a 23-year-old Tibetan self-immolated near a river in Kanlho, Gansu province. This act of protest was reported by a human rights group, which claimed there was not a single witness to the act. The isolated nature of the event is drastically different from other reported self-immolations by Tibetans who shouted slogans for a Free Tibet in towns' main markets or squares. Another self-immolation under atypical circumstances for a protest took place Nov. 7, when a 23-year-old Tibetan mother of one set herself on fire in Malho, Qinghai province. She siphoned petrol from a motorbike to set herself on fire in her family's winter pasture. Like the Nov. 22 example, this self-immolation occurred in a remote and isolated location, indicating that the motive for this suicide probably was not political protest. Overall, instead of eliciting concessions from China, the string of self-immolations has spurred a harsh crackdown on ethnic Tibetans, though China has tempered its crackdown to avoid triggering a larger and more violent revolt such as the one seen in 2008. Despite the lack of political and cultural influence the self-immolations have had on the Chinese government and its policies, self-immolations by ethnic Tibetans show no sign of stopping. As the acts continue, more evidence will unveil the underlying motivations for these acts and show how many are meant as a way to air grievances against Beijing.

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