Publisher: the New York Times, USA
Author: By RICK GLADSTONE
Story date: 16/11/2011
The chief abbot and spiritual leader-in-exile of a Tibetan monastery at the epicenter of a series of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule spoke out forcefully in New York on Wednesday, detailing what he called new and harsh repressive measures taken against the monks at the monastery since the immolations started in March.
The abbot, Kirti Rinpoche, 70, said the Chinese authorities had completely isolated the monastery, Kirti, in a restive area of Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan Province known as Aba, or Ngaba in Tibetan.
He said that in the past eight months, the Chinese had installed surveillance cameras and deployed as many as 800 security officials inside the monastery as part of an intense "patriotic re-education campaign" meant to prevent any more self-immolations. Although he did not have exact figures for the number of security officials there now or the monks they were supervising, he said it was possible that the security officials outnumbered the monks.
The abbot also said that senior monks had been removed from the monastery and that the other monks had been divided into 55 groups and subjected to random searches, re-education classes and frequent interrogations about their opinions.
He attributed the self-immolations and the harsh crackdown that followed to "something already reflected in a statement made by Mao Zedong himself: that wherever there is repression there will be resistance."
At least 11 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March in visceral acts of protest over China's policies in Tibet and adjoining areas populated by ethnic Tibetans; six of them have died, according to documents compiled by Tibetan advocacy groups. Eight of the Tibetans, including the first, were monks or former monks of the Kirti monastery, which was a focal point of a violent uprising against the Chinese authorities in 2008.
The self-immolations, which have been described by human rights groups as troubling new evidence of desperation by aggrieved Tibetans in areas of Chinese control, have become an embarrassment to China. The government has called them a form of terrorism encouraged by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader-in-exile, who is regarded by the Chinese authorities as a subversive who agitates for Tibetan independence. The abbot, a contemporary of the Dalai Lama who fled with him into exile in 1959, rejected China's view.
"The reason why this situation is taking place in Tibet, and particular in Ngaba, is because of the drastic nature of the repression that the Chinese government has been waging all over Tibet, and in particular in Ngaba," the abbot said.
He spoke through a translator at a news conference organized by Human Rights in China, an advocacy group based in New York, and said he was doing so because of what he called the intolerable situation in Tibetan areas and China's suppression of news about it.
"China is hiding the truth from its own people," he said.
The abbot gave reporters a list of 40 Tibetans in Ngaba who he said had been killed or had committed suicide since 2008, and a second list of 693 who he said had been arrested or sentenced to prison since then.
Refugees Global Press Review
Compiled by Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR
For UNHCR Internal Distribution