Two Tibetan Women Set Themselves on Fire in Sichuan, Gansu Provinces
A Tibetan mother and a middle school student are reported to have set themselves on fire in the western provinces of China, in the latest protest against the regime that took control over Tibet in 1959. The 32-year-old woman called Rinchen set herself ablaze on Sunday in front of the Kirti monastery in the Sichuan province, in the county of Aba, which has been the center of many such protests over the last year.
The death of the woman was reported by the U.S.-founded radio Free Asia, citing the testimony of a monk living in Dharamsala, the city in India where the Tibetan government in exile established in 1959.
The woman was said by Radio Free Asia to have demanded the return of Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet. The director of the Free Tibet group, based in London, said that her death was the result of repression against Tibetans, and added that “Tibetans live under the martial law.”
The Chinese politics and law committee office in Aba said that the authorities had heard nothing about this self-immolation over the weekend.
Another self-immolation was carried out in the Gansu province on Saturday by Tsering Kyi, a 18 or 19 years old student, who set herself in flames at a vegetable market in Maqu. The Chinese media did not confirm the incident. Radio Free Asia said that the people in the market threw stones at her burning body.
The Free Tibet group, which is the one who identified the student, said that before she died, the student said that Tibetans were burning themselves in Aba and other places. She is also said to have raised her fist above the head several times after she set herself ablaze.
The situation in the Tibetan zone of China became simmering up as the police has beaten up protesters who were protesting peacefully in favor of cultural and religious autonomy.
The timing of these self-immolations is associated with the beginning of the new Chinese annual legislative session, a time when security is being tightened across the country, and with the anniversaries of both the unsuccessful attempt of the revolt against the Chinese, which led to the fleeing of Dalai Lama to India, and of the revolt of the monks in Lhasa in 2008.
China had to address a riot last week in the neighboring province of Xinjiang, which is populated by Uyghurs that call themselves East Turkmen, as more then a dozen people were killed in an attack with knives on a populated area. The police had to act in retaliation killing a few of the assailants.
The Uyghurs, like the Tibetans, protest mainly the population of the area with Chinese Han population, which is altering the ethnical balance of the provinces, and is seen as a threat by both communities.
China is expected to keep these conflicts away from the eyes of the public this year, more than over the past years, as it is expected to undergo a serious transition of power to the next generation of Communist politicians.
In autumn, China is expected to hold the 18th congress of the Communist party, on which occasion the three pillars of the state, namely the Politburo Standing Committee, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission, representing the three decision-makers of the country, the Communist party, the state and the military, will receive new members in most of the organizations, replacing the old ones for reason pertaining to advanced age or other matters.
Over the next two years the political transition will be the most important matter in the Chinese policy, especially at the level of the Communist party, where president Hu Jintao is expected to be replaced by incumbent prime minister Wen Jiabao.
The transition, that comes ten years after the last one, in 2002, seems to be more difficult than expected, since the situation has changed worldwide, and China has changed too, assuming its role of first economy of the world and of world power.11