The Tibetan government-in-exile in India on Tuesday announced plans for a four-day campaign to bring global pressure on China in a bid to end a string of self-immolations in their Himalayan homeland.
Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan parliament in-exile based in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala, said the drive would include rallies and meetings and begin in New Delhi on Wednesday.
“The situation is getting more and more grim,” Tsering said at a joint news conference with Lobsang Sangay, who in 2011 took over political duties from revered Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and was named prime minister.
The two leaders said 99 Tibetans had set themselves on fire between 2009 and January 22 this year in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. Of that number, the government-in-exile says 83 have died.
“Instead of trying to address the main causes as to why self-immolations are taking place, as to why Tibetans are protesting in various other forms, the Chinese government has resorted to a blame game,” Sangay said.
“They blame us for the tragedy in Tibet which is absolutely baseless because Tibet has been under China’s occupation for the last 50 years,” the Harvard-educated scholar said.
Sangay said India, home to tens of thousands of Tibetan exiles “ought to speak out forcefully on Tibet”.
The four-day campaign will call for visits to Tibet by UN fact-finding teams and the publication of details of human rights discussions between Beijing and foreign powers, Sangay said.
Sangay said the Tibetan government as well as the parliament, which has been based in Dharamshala since the Dalai Lama fled after a failed uprising in 1959, were determined to highlight “repression of Tibetans in Tibet”.
Both the Dalai Lama and the prime minister have appealed to Tibetans not to resort to self-immolation.
“We are against drastic action but we must highlight it (the situation in Tibet) to the international community,” Sangay said.
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country’s majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.