Two more Tibetans burned themselves to death in protest at China’s rule of the Himalayan region, a rights group said yesterday, as state media accused the Dalai Lama of turning Tibetan Buddhism into “an evil cult.”
Both immolations happened on Saturday in restive Tibetan-inhabited regions of China, bringing the number of Tibetans who have set themselves ablaze since 2009 to 95, the International Campaign for Tibet said in a statement from London.
Kunchok Pelgye, 24, set himself alight in Sichuan Province’s Aba Prefecture — where most of the 95 incidents have taken place — while Pema Dorjee, 23, self-immolated in Gansu Province, the group said.
As they set themselves on fire, both men called out for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return to Tibet, the group said, citing witnesses at the scenes.
The two immolations occurred on the anniversary of the death of the founder of the Dalai Lama’s Yellow Hat school of Buddhism, an important date in its calendar.
On the anniversary Lhasa’s Jokhang temple, Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest shrine, was surrounded by police, soldiers and firemen, the campaign said, in an apparent effort to quell any further self-immolation attempts.
China accuses the Dalai Lama of inciting the spate of burnings and has ordered judicial departments to charge anyone caught aiding or abetting self-immolators to be tried for murder.
According to Xinhua news agency a monk and his nephew have been detained for inciting eight Tibetans to set themselves alight.
The men acted on the instructions of the Dalai Lama, Xinhua said, citing police “confessions and investigations.”
In an editorial yesterday, the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, said the goal of the burnings was to seek independence.
“The Dalai clique is using religion to exert spiritual control over people and to sacrifice these people in order to realize their political goals,” it said. “This not only completely violates Tibetan Buddhism and its traditions, but clearly embodies the special characteristics of ‘an evil cult.’”
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country’s majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically minority areas. Beijing denies the allegations, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom.