Extreme acts of violence

Updated: 2011-11-25 08:08

By Hua Zi (China Daily)

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Self-immolations are detrimental to the development of Tibetan Buddhism and harm national security and stability

In extreme acts of suicide, several young Tibetan monks and nuns have set themselves on fire in a Tibetan-populated region in southwestern Sichuan province since the onset of this year.

It is sad that these young men and women should feel compelled to take their lives in such a horrific way.

The Dalai Lama and some overseas Tibetan groups have responded to these self-immolations by publishing on-the-scene photos and a list of cash compensation available in the event of a death or injury through self-immolation. The Dalai Lama, a self-proclaimed advocate of "non-violence" and Tibet's "spiritual leader", has failed to appeal for an end to such acts.

Some of his followers have even described those who set themselves on fire as "heroes" and "fighters" and said a monument will be erected for them. It is because of such unbridled incitement that these self-immolations occur.

In fact, self-immolations inflict enormous pain on the families of the victims. It is no doubt a nightmare for them that their sons and daughters chose to put an end to their lives in such an extreme and pointless manner.

The domestic circle of Tibetan Buddhism has also expressed concern over the negative effects these self-immolations will have on the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism and its future.

Some Western media have claimed the slogans chanted by the monks and nuns before they set themselves alight are political appeals. In saying this, however, these media ignore the fact that these monks, who are only in their twenties and who have never traveled far from their families and monasteries, have had no opportunity to cultivate a political mindset. For these unsophisticated young people, such sentiments obviously stem from their religious "leaders" and "tutors", those who are behind the "Tibet independence" plot.

It is brutal and terrorist behavior to incite young Tibetans, who lack any basic knowledge and background about the real nature of the "Tibetan freedom campaign" and "Tibetan independence", to commit suicide.

These self-immolations are in essence a political conspiracy plotted by some who have long cherished the illusion of "Tibetan independence". By promoting the idea that these acts are because of religious persecution, those plotting "independence" attempt to discredit the image of the Chinese government and its long-cherished religious policies in Tibet. In so doing, they are also trying to attract the attention of the international community and push for internationalization of the "Tibet issue", steps they believe will facilitate their conspiracy.

Tibetan Buddhism had a long history of political-religious integration before democratic reforms were launched in the Tibet autonomous region in 1959. Ever since, such political-religious integration has been abolished in the vast autonomous region and other Tibetan-populated areas.

However, despite having experienced five decades of democratic reforms and social development, some backward "spiritual remnants" left over from the old Tibetan feudal society have not been completely uprooted from the minds of nostalgic monks and former privileged groups, who have never given up their dream of restoring their past rule on the vast region.

The self-immolations that have occurred in recent months demonstrate that Tibetan Buddhism still faces a challenge in its endeavors to completely discard the negative influence of Tibet's long history of political-religious integrated rule.

Trying to restore such an outmoded society and the lost privileges of rule through violent means is in violation of the basic tenets and spirit of Buddhism.

Religious extremism poses a threat to any country's national security and social stability if not effectively contained and eventually uprooted.

Extremism, as endorsed by the Dalai Lama and his clique, seriously taints the image of Tibetan Buddhism and disrupts social order.

The author is editor-in-chief of the China Tibetology Publishing House.

(China Daily 11/25/2011 page8)