PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 2:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

CCTV blames Dalai Lama, foreign media for instigating self-immolations

BIO

Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui
 

Chinese national television aired a lengthy prime time news feature blaming the Tibetan government-in-exile and foreign media for self-immolations in the country's Tibetan-populated areas.

"Only after I watched Voice of America, I want to do it," a bashful, young Tibetan man says, speaking of his failed attempt to kill himself by setting himself on fire. "At first, I thought I was a hero, now I am no hero; I'm an idiot."

The half-hour news feature is part of recent efforts by Chinese state media to change the narrative of Chinese control over Tibet. It is the fifth such video aired over the last year, writes Beijing-based Tibetan activist Tsering Woeser in a tweet.

She adds later that the report reveals one so far unknown failed attempt of self-immolation and that it shows a known self-immolator being shot by police.

At least 116 Tibetans have killed themselves in such acts of defiance against Chinese rule since 2009, according to overseas media reports.

The Chinese television news report repeats an allegation that the Tibetan government-in-exile is distributing a "self-immolation manuals" in Tibetan-populated areas. State-media began mentioning the purported existence of such a manual around the end of Feburary. 

The manual is allegedly distributed online, by travellers and by monks who clandestinely enter China. The TV production portrays self-immolators as young, naive and either desperately poor or with a criminal background.

The report also accuses foreign media of perpetuating the symbolic suicides. "By continuing to speculate about immolations, Radio Free Asia and other foreign media participate in their propagation in Tibetan areas," it claims.

To back up its claims, it - somewhat bizarrely - quotes a German language lecturer at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

"It's a problem of the Western media and it's a problem of the interests of the exiled Tibetans who ... it's a fact, the more trouble there is in Tibet, the more money they get," says Otto Kölbl.

"The macro cause is repression, and the immediate cause is that there is no space for any form of protest," Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile told The Atlantic in an interview published on Wednesday. 

"The Chinese have been cracking down on domestic monastic communities. Now the Communist party decides who can be a monk or not, and that seems to cause some monks to commit self-immolation," he said.

"The largest number of self-immolations took place during the Party Congress in November - they wanted to send an urgent message to the Chinese leadership," he said.

The CCTV report is scheduled to be aired internationally by the state broadcaster in English and four other languages.

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