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Self-immolations in Tibetan area linked to overseas plots: scholar
2011/12/06
 

BEIJING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- The recent self-immolations of monks and nuns in Tibetan-inhabited areas of southwest China's Sichuan province are linked to overseas plots, a Chinese Tibetologist wrote in a signed article.

The self-immolations took place at four Tibetan Buddhism temples, and most of them occurred at the Kirti Monastery in the province's Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture.

"We have learned what is behind these events," Zhang Yun, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center, wrote in an article published by the Xinhua News Agency.

The living Buddha of the Kirti Monastery, who fled in 1959 and has since lived in Dharamsala, India, has long exerted influence over the monastery, Zhang wrote. The living Buddha used to serve as a private secretary to the 14th Dalai Lama and religious head of the "Tibetan government-in-exile."

After the deadly rioting in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, monks who fled the monastery established a "coordination team" to mastermind and organize operations.

Scandals have surfaced claiming some people bought the bodies involved in the self-immolations, he wrote in the article.

"People are repulsed and angered by the masterminds, supporters and eulogists of the self-immolations, as they feel sad and sorry for the loss of young lives," Zhang wrote.

Buddhism asks its adherents to have charity in their hearts and a fundamental discipline of not killing any living thing. "Tibetan Buddhism has held a fine tradition for this," he wrote.

However, the cruel behavior of some monks during the Lhasa riots and the recent self-immolations tarnished the image of Tibetan Buddhism in the minds of ordinary people in regards to its no killing precept, Zhang said.

In his article, Zhang wrote that many heart-wrenching scenes emerged from the self-immolation incidents in Sichuan's Tibetan areas: young monks set themselves aflame after being pushed to do so by senior monks; police officers and medical staff rushed to save lives, but the monks tried to disrupt their efforts; the parents of the injured parties begged for the release of their children while the monks were left as victims of their own devices.

"These self-immolations not only brought into question whether these monasteries had obeyed the fundamental precepts of Buddhism, but also whether they occupy the bottom moral rung of being human," he wrote.

Self-immolation, abetting such activities, looting and buying bodies -- all these acts have prompted people to question the nature of these monasteries, he said.

"If the senior monks couldn't teach young monks to be benevolent, and the young monks couldn't abide by the precepts, how can they practice the responsibility of saving mankind? How could any parent trust them with their children?" Zhang wrote.

According to Western media reports, young monks and nuns shouted "Free Tibet" and "Tibet independence" before setting themselves ablaze. These actions show that not only were these self-immolation attempts politically-motivated but also that these people were ignorant of history, Zhang wrote.

People with even a modicum of common sense should know that Sichuan is not part of Tibet, he wrote, adding that even in the Simla Convention, an illegal document drafted by the British government in 1913 and 1914 in an attempt to achieve "Tibetan independence", which the central authorities refused to sign, the Tibetan-inhabited areas of Sichuan were included in the territory of the Republic of China.

Attempts to realize the "independence of Tibet" during past imperialistic invasions have all failed, and nowadays it goes against the progress of history to advocate for "Tibet independence," Zhang wrote.

Instigating separatism is against the will of the people as well as the fine anti-imperialistic and patriotic traditions carried on by the Tibetan people throughout modern history, he wrote.

After the Opium Wars broke out in 1840, people of the Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups in Sichuan marched to the front lines in the southeast coastal areas to fight British invaders under the instructions of the Qing Dynasty.

In February 1842, nearly 2,000 Tibetan and Qiang soldiers used their own horses and equipment to fight against foreign invaders.

Tibetan people also made great efforts in assisting the Red Army during the Long March which lasted from 1934-1935.

The fifth Gedar Tulku of Beri Monastery in Garze risked his life for the peaceful liberation of Tibet and was killed by separatists in 1950.

The democratic reform of the 1950s in Tibet and neighboring Tibetan-inhabited areas completely overturned the backward and theocratic feudal serf system, much to the displeasure of the monks and aristocrats in the upper class who lost land, serfs and political privileges in the process.

"Thereby, they attempted to split China and rule over Tibet again, a dream that has repeatedly been proven impossible to realize in over the past half a century," Zhang wrote in the article.

However, some religious people remain nostalgic for the old regime, which offered them many privileges through the combined powers of the monastery and the state, he said.

Some young monks and nuns are still in their childhoods and lack the awareness of laws and citizenship. They also lack the consciousness to abide by Buddhist precepts and self-restraint, so they have become easy prey for instigators.

"Besides the mastermind behind the self-immolations, the instigation by some overseas organizations, press and media institutions, the living Buddha and politicians also played a part," Zhang wrote.

The so-called Tibetan "government-in-exile" is anxious about its failing efforts to split China; therefore, it has taken advantage of the lives of young monks and nuns to put pressure on the Chinese government -- a move that has brought humiliation to Tibetan Buddhism, he wrote.

China has achieved rapid development and advances in people's living standards in recent years, and the central government is also addressing some difficulties the Tibetan people are facing, the article read.

In a keynote meeting on Tibet's development last year, the Chinese government organized several projects concerning people's livelihoods in Tibet and neighboring Tibetan-inhabited areas, such as providing electricity and water, building roads for monasteries, and including religious people in the coverage of social security.

The government has been giving policy support to young monks and nuns, as well as maintaining historical monasteries, sorting out and publishing Buddhist classics, and protecting and promoting traditional Tibetan culture.

In the meantime, many high-ranking religious figures are actively promoting their fine traditions of loving the nation and Buddhism, playing positive roles in maintaining stability in Tibetan-inhabited areas and developing traditional Tibetan culture.

The series of self-immolations were meant to ruin the present situation and the people's aspirations for stability, peace and welfare, Zhang wrote.

"The monks will not be monks if they do not abide by Buddhist precepts, and monasteries will not be monasteries if they interfere with politics. Tibetan Buddhism is worried about whether it has been tarnished by these people," he said.

 
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