US slams ‘horrific’ toll of Tibet self-immolations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 2:26pm

The United States on Friday denounced the “horrific” toll as the number of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule rose to 101.

Washington had noted “the horrific figures” and was “deeply concerned by the reports that these immolations are continuing,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told journalists.

“We call on those who are immolating, or those who might be considering this, to think hard about whether it’s the best way to express yourself,” Nuland said.

The United States also called on the Chinese government “to address its own policies in Tibet that have caused these kinds of tensions and frustration.”

Western rights groups and media said that a former monk, from the Kirti monastery, set fire to himself last week near a police station in Aba prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan province in southern China.

His death brought the total number to have set themselves on fire to at least 101 since 2009. At least 85 have died, tallies show.

Authorities have sought to crack down on the gruesome protests by arresting people accused of inciting the immolations and prosecuting them for murder.

Beijing routinely accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his followers of inciting such acts to push a separatist agenda.

The Dalai Lama, who says he is not seeking Tibetan independence but greater autonomy, fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising. He has since based himself in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala.