Wen 'distressed' by Tibetan suicides

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am


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The self-immolations of monks and nuns in Tibetan-populated areas were extreme actions that had disturbed and undermined social harmony, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday.

But he also said the young Tibetans involved were innocent and he felt 'deeply distressed' by their behaviour. At least 26 monks, nuns and other Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protests against Chinese rule and alleged religious suppression in Tibetan regions over the past year. Some have demanded the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

Yesterday was also the fourth anniversary of rioting in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet autonomous region, which saw Tibetans torch shops and attack passers-by, leaving nearly 20 dead and dozens injured.

London-based Free Tibet said hundreds of Tibetans joined an anti-Beijing protest in Qinghai province after a monk set himself on fire yesterday. It said Jamyang Palden, a monk in his 30s, burned himself in Tongren. He is believed to have survived and was taken to a hospital, but was brought back to the monastery by monks who feared he would be arrested by authorities.

It said about 500 monks and other Tibetans gathered in the town square to demonstrate, with some holding up images of the Dalai Lama. Monks from other monasteries were travelling to the town to express solidarity and people trying to enter the town were being stopped and questioned by plain-clothes security, it said.

The highest-ranking official to comment on the string of suicides, Wen said yesterday that the central government was 'opposed to such radical moves that disturb and undermine social harmony'.

'The so-called government in exile in Dharamsala, India, is a theocratic one, no matter whether it is under the direct control or indirect influence of the Dalai Lama,' he said. Wen accused the government in exile of attempting to 'separate Tibet and Tibetan inhabitants from China'.

The Tibet regional government has mobilised more than 20,000 cadres to be stationed in more than 5,000 villages, a senior ethnic Tibetan official said on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing.