Anti self-immolation propaganda now part of China’s ‘patriotic education’ campaign

After engaging in severe and systematic crackdown on self-immolation protests last year, the Chinese government has now stepped up the ante on propaganda offensive by conducting ‘patriotic education’ campaigns heavily centred on anti self-immolation messages and distribution of campaign paraphernalia such as documents, pamphlets, books, and animated posters exhorting the Tibetans both in pictures and words, the criminal consequences such as arrests, detention, and heavy prison terms including suspended death sentence.

According to information received by TCHRD, the Chinese government has published a document, targeted at Tibetans, that explains the legal consequences under Chinese Criminal Law for anyone charged of inciting, instigating or abetting self-immolations. The document, probably a booklet, dated January 2013, is titled “Cherish Life, Abide by Law.”

Front cover of the pamphlet titled "Cherish life, Abide by Law."

Front cover of the pamphlet titled “Cherish life, Abide by Law.”

Sources with contacts in Rebkong told TCHRD that the pamphlets were distributed in all monastic institutions, villages and townships in Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) County in Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

Reports have also emerged on Chinese authorities conducting ‘patriotic education’ campaign at Jhakyung Monastery in Palung County of Tsoshar (Ch: Haidong) Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Teachers from Qinghai minority Nationality University and Qinghai Teacher Training School were sent to the monastery to give political education sessions which contained strong messages against self-immolation, reported the Voice of Tibet radio. Citing a source in the area, the report said ‘patriotic education’ officials emphasised the usual patriotic lessons such as “loving the nation, religion, good relations between nationalities, and opposing the Dalai clique.” In particular, the officials called on fully opposing self-immolations, adding that not opposing self-immolations was equivalent to opposing the Chinese state. Anti self-immolation campaign documents were also distributed at Jhakyung Monastery.

The “Cherish life, Abide by Law” document, selective pages of which were received by TCHRD, said “inciting, misguiding and forcing others to self-immolate will be considered “intentional homicide”. Those charged of such crimes will be punished under article 232 of Chinese Criminal law.

Further the document said “those who create obstacles in the way of PSB officials, medical personnel and others protecting the self-immolators shall be charged with ‘intentional homicide,’ in accordance with the article 232 of the Criminal Law, and would be given either death sentence, life-imprisonment or ten years of imprisonment. [Those] committing lesser crimes would be sentenced to prison ranging from three to ten years. [See image two]

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For ‘crimes’ of inciting the masses to gather and taking out public processions carrying bodies of self-immolators and obstructing the traffic and disrupting public order shall be sentenced under articles 290 and 291 of Criminal Law. [See image three]

According to Chinese Criminal Law, article 290 is provides that: “Where people are gathered to disturb public order … losses are caused, the ringleaders shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than seven years; the active participants shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.”

Article 291 provides that “where people are gathered to disturb order at railway stations or bus terminals, wharves, civil airports, marketplaces, parks, theaters, cinemas, exhibition halls, sports grounds or other public places, or to block traffic or undermine traffic order, or resist or obstruct public security administrators of the State from carrying out their duties according to law, if the circumstances are serious, the ringleaders shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention or public surveillance.”

Interestingly, the document says “those who indulge in beating, smashing, looting and burning at public places will be punished under articles 263 and 275 of Criminal Law on charges of robbing and looting, or intentionally robbing public and private property. Serious cases will be sentenced to minimum of three years and maximum of seven years’ prison term, along with monetary fines.” [See image three]

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The document then goes on to say that “those who seriously disrupt social stability by making and distributing fake CDS and videos of explosive, venomous, fiery and riotous nature [meaning fake CDs and videos encouraging self-immolations and riots] shall be charged with harming the rules and regulations of society and propagating false rumors and [thus] would be sentenced to five years in prison and subjected to prison-labor. Those who commit serious offences, [however], would be sentenced up to fifteen years in prison.” [See image four]

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Further, it says “those who create obstacles in the way of PSB officials and cadres of the various state bureaus performing their lawful duties shall be charged with ‘harming the activities of the state/government,’ in accordance with the article 277 of the state criminal law, and would be sentenced up to three years in prison, subjected to prison-labor, or monetary fines.” [See image five]

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In a related development, China announced it has detained 70 Tibetans in Malho Prefecture “in connection with a string of self-immolations that have occurred since November 2012,” state media reported. The report said 12 out of 70 Tibetans had been formally arrested and charges would be filed soon against them. Lyu Benchian deputy chief of the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department was quoted as saying that “Tibetan separatists overseas flaunt them [self-immolators] as ‘heroes.’”

Interestingly, Chinese state media in a report on the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama’s trip to Inner Mongolia last month said the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama “paid homage to revolutionary martyrs at a monument hall, leaving a note in Tibetan that read, “Heroes’ flesh and blood constitute today’s happy life.”

The latest arbitrary arrests and detention are part of official attempts to criminalise self-immolation protests by Tibetans and to establish a link between self-immolations in Tibet and the so-called “Dalai clique” in exile. It is part of a systematic and concerted plan by the Chinese government to avoid addressing the real and urgent issues and grievances raised by self-immolation protesters.