“Acts of significant evil” – The criminalization of Tibetan self-immolations:
an ICT Special Report

Chinese Communist Party has responded to Tibetan self-immolations with an intensified wave of repression that has led to the convictions, detention without trial, or disappearance of at least 98 Tibetans by using a quasi-legal framework to criminalize them.

A new report by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) documents the impact of rulings announced in December 2012, a month after Xi Jinping became head of the Chinese Communist Party. The new measures, adopted in response to self-immolations across Tibet (now totalling 131), have resulted in a spike in political imprisonments, including one instance of the death penalty, and numerous cases of Tibetans being ‘disappeared’, with family and friends unaware of whether or not they are still alive, often for weeks or months.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “These chilling new measures have resulted in the imprisonment of innocent Tibetans and should serve as a wake-up call to world’s governments. The Chinese government is resorting to unacceptable forms of collective punishment to stifle dissent in Tibet. It uses pseudo-legal language without legal basis, instead based on propaganda, misinformation and denial of reality to punish the relatives and friends of the self-immolators”.

The new report, “‘Acts of significant evil’ – The criminalization of Tibetan self-immolations” finds that:

  • Tibetans can be sentenced on homicide charges based on their alleged ‘intent’ and presumed ability to influence a Tibetan who has self-immolated, according to guidelines announced in 2012;
  • At least 15 Tibetans have been sentenced to prison terms on “intentional homicide” charges because they allegedly have “aided” or “incited” others to self-immolate, despite the apparent lack of a formal legislative process having properly established the basis for such a charge;
  • Since 2010, at least 98 Tibetans have been sentenced, detained or disappeared due to an alleged association to a self-immolation; and
  • Chinese authorities are seeking to penalize families and the broader community when a Tibetan self-immolates, under a set of April 2013 regulations in one of the areas where several self-immolations have occurred.

In response to these new measures and their questionable legality under international and Chinese law, ICT recommends that:

  • The Chinese government release those imprisoned for being associated to self-immolators, e.g. for alleged “aiding” or “inciting” them, fully disclose the whereabouts of the individuals disappeared, and abolish all measures of collective punishment for families and entire communities.
  • The international community raise with Chinese officials the inconsistency of the relevant measures with international and Chinese law; and
  • The Chinese government to address the underlying grievances of Tibetans by means of respecting their universal rights and by entering into meaningful negotiations with the Tibetans.

Read the report »