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NTDTV | Mar 7
A Sichuan official said on Thursday authorities there will continue to crack down on Tibetan self-immolation protests. Addressing the National Peop...
In China's Sichuan province, two Tibetans -- a Buddhist monk and a former monk -- set themselves on fire on Monday. Both men died of their injuries. Now, this brings to five the total number of self-immolations in the area over the past two weeks. More than 40 people have set themselves alight in the past year to protest against what they believe is Chinese persecution of their religion and culture. Monday's immolations led to clashes between Tibetans and police in Aba, where the men had been members of the Kirti monastery. Free Tibet, a human rights organization, says that one person was killed, although this has not been confirmed by Chinese authorities. To tell us what's behind the self-immolations and protests, we have Tibetan historian, Tsering Shakya with us today on Skype. Professor Shakya specializes in Tibet's relations with China and teaches at the University of British Columbia. Thanks for coming onto the show, Professor.
Tsering Shakya, University of British Columbia:
Thank you for inviting me.
Now, the Kirti monastery seems to be a focal point for a lot of these protests. Can you tell us why that is, and what would drive these two monks to set themselves on fire?
One reason is that the Kirti has traditionally has been one of the largest monasteries in the Sichuan area. And since the reform period, the monastery has really grown and has flourished into some degree. And now this is, for the Chinese Communist Party, it has become a problem that the monastery is too large, and it's becoming immensely influential and more powerful than the county government. And so the government has been trying to restrict a number of the monks and management of the monastery. And this is leading to the sort of clash between the authorities and the monastic community.
Now, does the increase in the number and frequency of these protests have anything to do with the upcoming leadership change in China?
Yes, I think in some ways this is connected. Firstly, the Tibetan protesters and the people who are burning themselves are aware of the transitional period in China. Transitional periods are always a difficult and conflicting period. And another thing to remember is that Hu Jintao is intimately linked with Tibet policies in China. Hu Jintao was party secretary in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Many of the leaderships in the Communist Party under Hu Jintao were also worked within the Tibetan areas in the past. So there is connection to the policies of the current CCP leadership and the Tibet issue.
Thank you, Professor. Tsering Shakya is a Tibetan historian, who teaches at the University of British Columbia. He also wrote the book The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947. You can learn more about him on our experts page.