BEIJING – The Dalai Lama has called on Beijing to examine its policies in the Tibetan areas and has said China is trying to deflect attention from the problems by blaming overseas groups for the self-immolations, mainly in the Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
He has also described the protests as a sensitive issue and refrained from condemning them out of sensitivity to the families of the protesters.
The protests have appeared to have rattled the authorities in the Tibetan areas, who have imposed a security blanket on many counties in Sichuan, Gansu and in the TAR, restricting travel, increasing the number of security personnel deployed and barring journalists.
The protests spread beyond the monasteries in Sichuan where they first began in 2009, with students, farmers and ordinary Tibetans, besides monks and nuns, setting themselves on fire.
On Friday, TAR officials said they would crack down on protesters. “We will always place maintaining stability as our top priority and keep on crackdowns on all secessionist forces and sabotage activities,” said chairman of the TAR government Losang Jamcan.
Qiangba Puncog, TAR vice-party secretary and among the highest-ranked Tibetan officials in the regional government which is headed by party chief Chen Quanguo, said the government had “abundant evidence that the groups in China and outside China are working with each other.”
Last month, the authorities in Sichuan, where the most number of immolations had taken placed, sentenced a 40-year-old monk to death, with a two-year reprieve, for allegedly inciting monks to protest and sending videos of the protests to monks in India. His nephew received a 10-year jail term.
However, officials have so far linked less than a dozen of the more than 100 incidents to exiled monks.
Mr. Puncog said, “I am not saying 100 per cent of incidents were planned directly. Treating self-immolators as heroes and praying for them and reciting sutras for them, all have an indirect connection with the Dalai Lama.”
He said monks in the TAR were not involved in any protest.
One protest that took place near Lhasa’s famous Jokhang temple was said to have involved monks from Sichuan.
“Tibet has more than 1,700 temples and 46,000 monks,” he said. “None of them has seen self-immolation.”