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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan nun self-immolates calling out for freedom and Dalai Lama’s return

April 13, 2015

New York Times, April 11, 2015 - A nun set herself on fire in the past week in a Tibetan area of western China to protest Chinese rule and to call for the return of the Dalai Lama from exile, according to two pro-Tibet advocacy groups.

The nun, Yeshi Khando, is believed to have died because of the intensity of the fire. The death could not be confirmed because the police took her away after dousing the flames with fire extinguishers, said the groups, which had spoken with people in the area where the self-immolation occurred on Wednesday.

Yeshi Khando, who was in her 40s and was from Nganggang Nunnery, set herself ablaze near a monastery in the Kardze area of Sichuan Province, known in Chinese as Ganzi. She was the second woman to set herself on fire this year and the 138th Tibetan to do so since 2009 in Tibetan regions ruled by China, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group based in Washington.

The protesters acted largely out of anger and frustration at what they call the Chinese occupation of their homeland, according to the groups, which are based outside China.

The group said on Friday that the nun had taken part in many peaceful protests since 2008, when uprisings against Chinese rule took place across the Tibetan plateau. Local and central officials of the Chinese Communist Party then imposed a wide security clampdown across the plateau, and that has continued, especially in parts of Sichuan Province, since the self-immolations began in 2009.

The party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which is what China calls the vast central Tibetan plateau west of the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, said this month that monasteries and nunneries had to teach loyalty to the party.

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the official party newspaper, published an article by the party chief, Chen Quanguo, saying the party would work to ensure that “model harmonious monasteries” and “patriotic, law-abiding monks and nuns” are the norm in Tibet, according to Agence France-Presse. Mr. Chen wrote that all monasteries and nunneries must display the Chinese flag and have telephone service, newspapers and reading rooms, and that more propaganda activities would be held so that monks and nuns could “educate themselves in patriotism.”

Party officials have been vocal about exerting greater control over the spiritual life of Tibet. Last month, officials at an annual political conclave in Beijing said that the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79 and lives in exile in India, must reincarnate and that the ultimate authority over the process was in the hands of the party and the central Chinese government. The Dalai Lama, however, has said he may be the last one or his successor may be found outside Chinese-ruled Tibet.

Chinese officials maintain that the Tibetans who have set themselves on fire are mentally unstable or have been manipulated by India’s “Dalai clique.”

Free Tibet, a London-based advocacy group, said the nun walked around Kardze Monastery on Wednesday and set herself on fire at 9 a.m. near the Kardze County police station. The group said that while she was on fire, she shouted the slogan “Let His Holiness return to Tibet” and others.

“While many Tibetans are turning to other forms of protest, Yeshi Khando’s action shows us that some still feel self-immolation is the only way to express the depth of their grievance,” Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, director of Free Tibet, said in a written statement. “Once again, we hear calls for Tibetan freedom and for the country to be reunited with its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.”

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