Human rights advocates yesterday called on Beijing to stop the repression of people in Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, and blamed the recent cases of self-immolation by Tibetans and ethnic conflict in Xinjiang on the Chinese government.
“The situation in Tibet and East Turkestan [another name for Xinjiang] is becoming critical as 25 people have set themselves on fire in Tibet since March last year — of which 15 have died — and there have been violent clashes between Uighurs and Chinese in East Turkestan,” Taiwan Friends of Tibet chairperson Chow Mei-li (周美里) told a press conference.
“The Chinese government may claim that [Tibetan spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama is behind the suicides and that foreign ‘terrorist’ groups are fanning ethnic conflict in East Turkestan ... [but] the authoritarian rule of the Chinese government in these places should instead be blamed,” she said.
Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元), an associate professor at Chung Hua University’s department of public administration, also blamed Chinese authorities for the recent violence.
“Since this recent outbreak of uprisings against Chinese rule in Tibetan communities throughout China, the Chinese Communist Party has launched a ‘patriotic education campaign’ through which they have asked Tibetan Buddhist temples to hang portraits of Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong (毛澤東), Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) instead of their religious leaders, such as the Dalai Lama,” Tseng said. “If you are a monk or even an average Tibetan, how could you tolerate such acts and how could you not do something about it? ”
Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan poet and independence activist who was born in exile in India, said China’s occupation of the region had become a major source of public discontent among Tibetans and that while information and images of the current situation in Tibet might be blocked, many people are choosing to sacrifice themselves through self-immolation.
“Self-immolation is the last act that a human being can take to express their freedom and the freedom of their country,” Tenzin said. “The hope is that the news of the self-immolations will at least get to the outside world.”
Political analyst Paul Lin (林保華), who has been in close contact with Uighur activists, said recent attacks on Han Chinese residents in Xinjiang has sent a clear message to Beijing: Uighurs do not want any more ethnic homogenization.
“Between 1949 and 1953, when the China first took over East Turkestan, 75 percent of the population were Uighurs. By the end of the Cultural Revolution [in 1976], the percentage dropped to about 60 percent. In 2000, only 45 percent were Uighurs,” Lin said.
“In the name of anti-poverty programs, China has sent tens of thousands of young, unmarried Uighurs to work in China’s more developed coastal provinces and the purpose is clear: They want to detach young Uighurs from their culture and hope that they will end up marrying Han Chinese as well,” Lin said.
The Chinese government should be blamed for the “poverty” issue since Beijing has taken most of Xinjiang’s natural resources from the local population, he added.