Exiled Tibetans hold candle light vigil as homage to self immolators
Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, observed a candlelight vigil over the weekend to protest against Chinese repression, which they say is driving their compatriots to take their lives through self-immolation
All but one of the protests since 2009 have come after the March 2011 self-immolation of a 20-year-old monk, Phuntsog, at the Kirti monastery in a Tibetan part of Sichuan province.
Monks and nuns in traditional maroon robes participated in the candle-lit rally along with young Tibetan children and women, organised under by the Tibetan Youth Congress and Regional Tibetan Women's Association.
Tibetans raised concern over the rise in self-immolations and also expressed solidarity with the latest two martyrs who torched themselves over the weekend.
Tenzin Lamsang, General Secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, said it was their way of paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives for a better future for the rest of Tibetans.
"This candle light vigil is for two martyrs who self immolated yesterday. Yesterday in Tibet one monk and another man self immolated to protest against Chinese continued occupation of Tibet. So, that is why we are organizing this candle light vigil in solidarity with these two martyrs and as well as with the rest of the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for Tibet. The total number of self immolators has become 94 in Tibet," said Lamsang.
Meanwhile, as the number of self-immolations in restive Tibetan regions rises sharply, Beijing appears to be tightening rules against the anti-China protests despite hopes the new leadership may take a softer line against Tibet.
Some experts have said Communist Party chief Xi Jinping -- whose former vice premier father had a close bond with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama -- might adopt a more reformist approach to the troubled mountainous region when he takes over as president in March.
On his part, the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, in India since 1959, has pressed China to investigate the dozens of self-immolations by Tibetans.
Earlier, the United Nations most senior human rights official called on China to address frustrations that have led to Tibetans desperate protests, including some 60 self-immolations since March 2011.
In all, there have been 94 burnings to protest Chinese rule since 2009, according to the Tibet-government-in-exile. At least 77 people have died from their injuries.
Recently, the United Nation's human rights officials called on China to allow independent human rights monitors to visit Tibet and address deep-rooted frustrations.
China has barred foreign journalists from Tibet and prevented many others from travelling to surrounding Tibetan regions, making independent verification difficult.
The country has branded the self-immolators 'terrorists' and criminals, and has blamed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, for inciting them.
Months of sporadic self-immolations by sympathetic monks and nuns followed, all in the name of opposing Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed 1959 uprising.