• The Chinese state media announced the detention of seven Tibetans in Gansu who they blame for ‘organizing’ a self-immolation, saying that they are members of the ‘Dalai clique’ and the exile activist group the Tibetan Youth Congress, based in India. The strong statement, which appears to be aimed at a Chinese audience, is indicative of an increasingly aggressive strategy of reprisals against friends, family and others who may be connected in some way to Tibetans who self-immolate.
  • Tsewang Rigzin, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress issued a statement saying that the TYC would never encourage anyone to self-immolate, and that the Chinese authorities are doing so in order to deflect blame from their policies.
  • There has been a further self-immolation today – the second in 2013. A man in his twenties who has been named as Tsering set himself on fire in Drachen village, Marthong county, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province. He passed away at the scene and his body was taken away by Chinese police, according to Tibetan exile sources. He is survived by his wife and two children. Further details will be published when they become available.

According to a January 15, 2013, report carried on Xinhua.net, after the self-immolation and death of a young Tibetan man, Sangay Gyatso, in Gansu province last October (ICT report, Grandfather of Tibetan reincarnate lama dies after self-immolation today), the local Public Security Bureau immediately set up a “full strength” task force and “successfully caught key members of the overseas Dalai Clique’s Tibetan Youth Congress.” The report claims that certain Tibetans who attended an important Tibetan Buddhist teaching, the Kalachakra, in India last year and subsequently returned to Tibet, were arrested for organizing “the premeditated incitement to self-immolate, resulting in the death of one person.” Hundreds of Tibetans were detained upon their return from this major religious teaching by the Dalai Lama and subjected to ‘re-education.’ The detentions indicated apparent fears by the authorities of a spread in unrest following a series of self-immolations and protests in eastern Tibet. (ICT report, Lockdown in Lhasa at Tibetan New Year; unprecedented detentions of hundreds of Tibetans after Dalai Lama teaching in exile).

The Tibetan Youth Congress, a world-wide organization of Tibetans based in Dharamsala, India, described the charges as “ridiculous” with TYC Joint Secretary Tenzin Norsang telling The New York Times: “Those who are self-immolating have been living under Chinese rule for more than 50 years – they don’t need anyone to tell them what to do.” (New York Times, China Arrests 7 in New Effort to Stop Tibetan Self-Immolations – January 17). TYC President Tsewang Rigzin issued a statement saying that his organization would never encourage anyone to self-immolate, and that the accusations are meant to deflect blame from failed Chinese policies in Tibet. (Phayul, TYC rejects China’s allegations as ‘baseless and fallacious’).

Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, reacted to the arrests saying: “Tibetans are sadly familiar with the use of punitive measures as an official state response to protest. But, in the context of nearly 100 Tibetan self-immolations, a police response is extremely callous and certainly devastating to the Tibetans who have been caught up in this exercise of misplaced blame. If Tibetans are indeed taking their lives to say repression must end, and the authorities are answering them with further repression, then where is the solution? A humane response that addresses legitimate grievances is urgently required. That much is evident to the internationally community and increasingly so among Chinese and Tibetans.”

A Tibetan living in exile, Choegyam Tso, who knew Sangay Gyatso, the Tibetan whose self-immolation set into motion the police response, told Dharamsala-based Voice of Tibet radio: “I know Sangay Gyatso, and he is my village mate. He was a very honest person and he cared about young people and respected elders.the Chinese government makes up its own stories rather than face the reality of the situation on the ground.”

Sangay Gyatso lived in the town of Tsoe in Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province (the Tibetan area of Kham). In December, the Gannan Daily, the local government-run paper in Gansu Province, outlined sweeping measures issued by China’s judicial and law enforcement authorities. According to the directives, those “criminals” who “actively participate in inciting, coercing, enticing, abetting, or assisting others to carry out self-immolations, will be held criminally liable for intentional homicide in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China.” Additionally, self-immolators should be treated according to the “extent of their malign intentions.” (“Those Who Incite Self-Immolations Must be Severely Punished Under the Law,” Gannan Daily, December 3, 2012. Translation into English by Dui Hua.).

Also in December, Xinhua reported the detention of a Tibetan monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province. The 40-year old monk, Lorang, or Lobsang, Konchok and his 31-year old nephew Lorang, or Lobsang, Tsering, are reportedly accused of playing a role in inciting several self-immolations. According to the Xinhua report, the two Tibetans had passed on information about self-immolations to Tibetans in India. From March 2008 when protests swept across Tibet and continuing since the self-immolations began in November 2009, the Chinese government has engaged in a comprehensive cover-up of the torture, disappearances and killings in Tibet, and has prosecuted cases against Tibetans for the passing on of information from Tibet to the outside world.