Dalai Lama: 'Cultural genocide' behind self-immolations

The Dalai Lama speaks to the media in Japan on 4 November 2011 The Dalai Lama said Chinese policies had left Tibetans in a desperate situation

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The Dalai Lama has blamed Beijing's "cultural genocide" for a wave of self-immolations among monks and nuns in ethnic Tibetan parts of Sichuan.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, speaking in Japan, said hard-line officials had created a "desperate" situation.

Eleven young Tibetans have set themselves on fire this year in apparent protest against Chinese rule.

The most recent was a nun in Dawu county, who died after setting herself on fire last week.

"Chinese communist propaganda create (a) very rosy picture," the Dalai Lama told journalists in Tokyo.

"But actually, including many Chinese from mainland China who visit Tibet, they all have the impression things are terrible."

"Some kind of policy, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place."

'Moral bottom line'

Most of the incidents have taken place in Aba county, near the Tibetan Kirti monastery. A total of nine monks and two nuns are reported to have set themselves on fire in Sichuan province this year.

The Tibet Divide

  • China says Tibet was always part of its territory
  • Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th Century
  • In 1950, China launched a military assault
  • Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
  • Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India
  • Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not independence

The Tibetan government-in-exile says six of those involved have died.

"(In the) last 10, 15 years, there were some kind of hard-liner Chinese officials," the Dalai Lama said. "So that's why you see these sad incidents have happened due to (this) desperate sort of situation."

The US has also expressed concern in recent days.

"We have... repeatedly urged the Chinese government to address its counter-productive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions," State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said on Friday.

China has blamed the Dalai Lama for the self-immolations. State-run Xinhua news agency reported that the latest case was "masterminded and instigated by the Dalai Lama clique".

"Not condemning self-immolations but playing them up and inciting others to follow examples is challenging the common conscience and moral bottom line of human kind," Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said last week.

The Tibetan government-in-exile rejects the suggestion it is instigating events.

In March 2008, the largest anti-China protests in two decades erupted in Tibet and spread to ethnic Tibetan areas of surrounding provinces.

Tibetans say that Chinese rule and the large-scale migration of Han Chinese are eroding their culture and traditions. They says that Beijing does not allow them to practise their religion freely.

Beijing says it is raising standards of living in the region with its investment, and so providing Tibetans with better lives. It says Tibetans have religious freedom.

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