As Chinese President Xi Jinping is touring Europe–Monday he visited the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels–another Tibetan Buddhist devotee has self immolated. The Tibetan nun known as Dolma is the 133rd Tibetan to self immolate in protest of Chinese rule.
Dolma, 31, self immolated in Kardze, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, March 29, near Bhachoede monastery, and was found by locals cirumambulating the monastery grounds. She was taken to the Bathang People’s Hospital, where soon after Chinese police arrived at the hospital and prevented Tibetans entering. Communication lines to Bathang were cut and security was tightened, according to Bathang residents.
Dolma had spent the past few months at Rethod monastery, Bathang, in retreat. Chinese police have since arrested three nuns from the monastery. The whereabouts of the nuns is unknown.
Under Chinese law, it is illegal to self immolate. It is considered by Chinese authorities to be an act of separatism and terrorism, and is punished with incarceration.
Prison sentences for Tibetan nuns can be severe in China. In the most famous case, 13-year-old nun Ngawant Sangdrol was arrested and jailed for nine months in 1991 for her participation in a peaceful protest. She was interrogated, beaten with pipes and tortured with electric cattle prods. Sangdrol was again arrested in 1992 under a charge of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” and was sentenced to three years in Tibet’s most feared prison, Drapchi. Her sentence was extended multiple times. The first was punishment for singing Tibetan nationalist songs–Chinese authorities added six years to her sentence. In all, Sangdrol’s sentence was extended to 21 years, but she was released early in 2002 as a result of the energies of international campaigners.
In another well known case, Chinese authorities arrested and beat 54 Tibetan nuns in 2008 for refusing to denounce their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Since 2009, 127 Tibetans have self immolated in Tibet and another six have self immolated in Nepal and India.
Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused China of pressuring Nepalese authorities to restrict Tibetans’ rights in Nepal. Nepal has faced pressure from China for years to limit the Tibetans who wish to enter Nepal as a refuge from Chinese repression. Nepal is also a transit point for Tibetans on their way to India, where a large community of Tibetan exiles live. The Human Rights Watch report said that Nepalese police use arbitrary arrest, spying and threats against Tibetans.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is currently in Europe for an 11-day visit, where he will meet EU leaders and tour the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium. U.S. President Barack Obama, whose wife recently made a point of visiting a Tibetan teahouse while touring China, will also meet with Xi in the Netherlands at a nuclear conference. Obama visited with the Dalai Lama in the White House in February despite strong Chinese protests, but it is uncertain whether the U.S. president or any other European leader will raise the issue of Tibet with Xi on this visit.
Obama and other Western leaders have often made compromises in regard to strong trading partner China. Obama bowed to Chinese demands that the U.S. not entertain the Dalai Lama in 2009, and British Prime Minister David Cameron did the same in 2012. However, Obama changed his attitude and has met the spiritual leader three times since 2009. Cameron, however, did not meet again with the Dalai Lama and did not address human rights in Tibet when he visited China last December.
By Day Blakely Donaldson