The Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan yesterday demanded an apology from Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) for saying that Tibetan lamas were causing trouble for the Chinese government by self-immolating.
Ko on Wednesday said at a Taipei City Government briefing on public safety that self-immolation was a “trendy” thing to do among Tibetan lamas, adding that the behavior “caused great trouble for the Chinese government.”
Self-immolation is a public safety hazard and “not a very good way to commit suicide,” he said.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
“Why would anyone choose self-immolation to take their own life? That is weird. Why self-immolation? I do not get it,” he said, laughing.
Group president Tashi Tsering yesterday said that he found Ko’s remarks to be “infuriating” and impossible to understand.
Despite being an influential political figure, Ko appears to be oblivious to the suffering of people in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong under the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party, and uninterested in learning about the truth, he said.
“He is only willing to speak for the Chinese government and only worried that people’s protests would lead to inconvenience for the government,” Tashi said, adding that the mayor should apologize for his remarks.
Tibetans have not chosen self-immolation to be trendy, but rather to stand up for people who are suffering, the group said, adding that many of them left behind a letter stating their beliefs and calling for freedom.
Ko’s remarks appeared to blame Tibetans for causing trouble while ignoring the Chinese government’s crackdowns on Tibetan religion, culture and human rights, said independent Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐), who is head of the Taiwan Parliamentary Group for Tibet.
Self-immolation has been the most poignant form of protest by Tibetans to safeguard their faith and dignity against the Chinese government’s relentless suppression, he said, adding that at least 159 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2002.
“Who chooses self-immolation just because it is a trendy thing to do?” Lim asked, adding that politicians should be more sympathetic.
During a question-and-answer session at the Taipei City Council yesterday, New Power Party Taipei City Councilor Lin Ying-meng (林穎孟) asked the mayor to take back his controversial remarks, which she said went against the city’s values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Ko said that words spoken cannot be retracted, adding: “I am still not a fan of radical protests.”
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