The Dalai Lama voiced sadness on Friday at the reported self--immolation of two more Tibetans, the latest in a wave of such protests against Beijing’s rule.
However, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader — blamed by Beijing for fomenting the burning protests — was cautious of further comment since the issue was “very political."
“It is very, very sad,” he said, when asked about the latest two self-immolations in a restive southwestern region of China, reported by human rights groups.
“Indeed, very sad. But at the same time it is currently [a] very, very political issue. I prefer [to] remain silent,” he said on a visit to California.
A total of 34 Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, are now reported to have attempted to kill themselves in the same way since the start of last year over what they see as Chinese repression of their culture.
The latest self-immolations by a pair of young Tibetan men occurred on Thursday last week in Aba Prefecture, a rugged area of Sichuan Province, China, overseas Tibetan rights groups said.
Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama, who began a US trip in Hawaii before traveling to California this week and then on to Chicago and Canada, repeated on Friday his view that there were positive signs of political reform. He cited comments by outgoing Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), that China has no way forward but through economic and political structural reform, as well as the sidelining of a key hardliner.
“These things show [that] the more open-minded leaders ... are gaining the upper hand. So that’s a hopeful sign,” he told reporters in Long Beach, California.
China has imposed tight security to contain simmering discontent in Tibetan regions since 2008, when deadly rioting against Chinese rule broke out in Tibet’s capital Lhasa and spread to neighboring Tibetan-inhabited regions.
The 76-year-old laughed off a question about him visiting North Korea, currently in the spotlight over its recent rocket launch. China is Pyongyang’s sole major ally and provides a crucial prop for its ailing economy.
“If some serious invitation come from North Korea then no reason [to] refuse,” he said, laughing, before adding: “But impossible.”