Tibetan writer sentenced to 5 yrs in prison for writing book on self-immolation

 

Gartse Jigme, monk and writer, sentenced to five years in prison

Gartse Jigme, monk and writer, sentenced to five years in prison

By branding Dalai Lama as their enemy and neglecting the demands of self-immolators, they have shown that they consider more than 99% of the Tibetan population as their enemies.

~ Gartse Jigme, imprisoned monk and writer

 

On 14 May 2013, two days before the launch of Chinese state television broadcaster CCTV’s fifth propaganda film on self-immolations, a Tibetan writer was quietly sentenced to five years in prison for writing a book on the issue of Tibet issue including self-immolation protests.

According to exile Tibetan sources, Gartse Jigme, 36, a writer and monk, was sentenced to prison on 14 May 2013 for authoring a book with political contents by Tsekhog (Ch: Zekog) County People’s Court in Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.  

The book in question is the second volume of Tsenpoi Nyintop [Eng: Tsenpo’s Valour], which contains the writer’s reflections and opinions on wide ranging subjects including Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama, self-immolation, language, education, protests, environment, etc. At the time of his arrest, on 1 January 2013, Gartse Jigme had finished writing the book and was planning to publish it.

An unshaven and gaunt-looking Gartse Jigme being questioned at Public security Bureau office in Rebkong.

An unshaven and gaunt-looking Gartse Jigme being questioned at Public security Bureau office in Rebkong.

After his arrest, Gartse Jigme was held in the provincial capital of Xining for sometime, followed by several months’ detention in Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) County in Malho Prefecture. The first volume of Tsenpoi Nyingtop was released in 2008. In April 2011, the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers briefly detained him for his views published in the book.

Gartse Jigme, a monk from Gartse Monastery, was born in Garwa nomadic village of Gartse Township in Rebkong County. He has been writing since 1999 and had won several local literary prizes. His first book, ‘Musings on My Reflections’ received favorable reviews from friends and others in the community. He was also a Buddhist scholar having studied and successfully passed major Buddhist courses at his monastery in 2003.

The second volume of ‘Tsenpoi Nyingtop’ could not be published in Tibet as planned by its author. However, exile Tibetans who hail from Rebkong County have published the book in India. The book was published soon after Gartse Jigme’s sentencing.

TCHRD has translated and edited the first chapter of the book titled, ‘Chinese government and self-immolations’ , as it addresses many of the absurd, unsubstantiated allegations raised by the Chinese government over Tibetan self-immolations, be it short propaganda articles in state-owned newspapers or more recently, propaganda documentaries blaming the nebulous and all-encompassing “Dalai clique” for instigating and inciting self-immolations in Tibet.

 

Note: Gartse Jigme finished writing the book some time in early December 2012 when about 90 Tibetans had died of self-immolation protests in Tibet. As of now, the total number of self-immolation protests in Tibet has reached 117.

 

 

Chinese Government and Tibetan Self-immolations 

By Gartse Jigme

 

To protest against Chinese rule in Tibet, Thubten Ngodup, a Tibetan exile, committed self-immolation in 1998 [in India]. Eleven years later, in 2009, Tapey became the first Tibetan from within Tibet to commit self-immolation. As of now, more than ninety Tibetans have committed self-immolation. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Chinese government haven’t paid any attention to these [drastic] acts of protests. Rather than showing concern, Chinese leaders, including Hu Jintao, attacked the Dalai Lama [for being the primary cause of self-immolations.] The government forced some tulkus [reincarnated lamas] in Tibet to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama; they dispatched military soldiers armed with machine guns and armored vehicles into Tibetan areas. Their only response has been repression, rather than showing an attitude of leniency and concern.

If one reflects seriously on this issue, [one would come to realize that] it is an extremely painful issue. Despite Chinese government’s repeated claims of democracy, it has failed to give any consideration to the demands raised by more than 90 Tibetan self-immolators. [The Chinese leaders’] only concern is to protect their position – a clear manifestation of their dictatorial ways of [functioning]. [The seriousness of] these demands can be gauged by the fact that they are made through acts of self-immolation, rather than through [conventional means] of writing.

What are the aspirations of the Tibetan self-immolators? More than 90 self-immolators have called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet. One self-immolator called for Tibet’s independence. If I speak out a karmic truth, it is that Beijing government is not in a position to grant Tibetan independence. But Beijing government does have the power to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and grant legitimate rights and freedoms to the Tibetan people. Instead of exercising this power, Beijing is implementing dictatorship. [On the one hand] it dispatches soldiers armed with guns and armored vehicles to repress Tibetan people, [on the other hand] it brands His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an ‘enemy,’ and calls for the need to fight ‘separatists.’ The demands of the self-immolators are neglected. Not a single thought is given to the future happiness of billions of people. The truth is that no particular organization or lama instigated the martyrs to commit self-immolations. They were motivated by the sufferings and aspirations of their fellow six million Tibetans. As such they are heroes.

Because of these reasons, Chinese leaders consider His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their enemy and neglect the demands of the self-immolators. By branding His Holiness as their enemy and neglecting the demands of self-immolators, they have shown that they consider more than 99% of the Tibetan population as their enemies. They have clearly shown that the aspiration of 99% of Tibetan population means nothing to them.

 

I

 Chinese government, particularly leaders like Wen Jiabao, declared the self-immolators as ‘terrorists.’ Such accusations demonstrate the evil nature of the Chinese government and ruthlessness of their leaders. The United Nations, leaders of France, Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, US, South Africa, India, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and other supporters of democracy have asserted that self-immolations are desperate acts of peaceful protests. Despite such assertions, why do the Chinese leaders consider self-immolations as terrorist acts?

Tibetan intellectuals have analysed why the Chinese government brands self-immolators as ‘terrorists.’ According to them, the Chinese government has sent a clear warning to suppress the peaceful Tibetan protestors, as they suppressed the students of Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. One thing that needs to be clarified is the fact that the decision of Wen Jiabao to declare self-immolators as terrorists reflects the decision of the whole Chinese leadership. It is not just his personal opinion. The truth is that millions of lives have been sacrificed for the interest of Chinese people and Chinese nation. Would Beijing regard these sacrifices as acts of terrorism? The Chinese revolutionaries had murdered Japanese colonisers and millions of others who opposed communism, but Tibetan self-immolators fighting for their people’s rights have not harmed a single member of other nationality or organisation. They only burned themselves, demanding for the Tibetan people’s religious and cultural rights. Only an evil and a blind government or leadership would regard such acts of protests as terrorism or violence. A sane person would never make such accusations.

 

II

Chinese government’s accusation that self-immolators have acted against principles of Buddhism is nothing but an evil talk. According to Tibetan Buddhism, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is considered an act of Bodhisattva. This fact will become clear if one reads the life story of Buddha. In one of his many lifetimes, Buddha sacrifices his body to save a tigress and her cubs from dying of extreme hunger. This famous story, retold through generations and is widely known [among the faithful], is titled  ‘the story of Buddha sacrificing his life for the Tigress.’ If one is practicing the Mayahana form of Buddhism, one should be willing to sacrifice everything for the wellbeing of sentient beings. For instance, one should be willing to suffer billions of years in a hell of fire for the wellbeing of a sentient being. In the words of the Great Panchen Chogyan, ‘one should be willing to remain in hell of fire for eons for the wellbeing of each and every sentient being.’ Therefore, sacrificing one’s life for the wellbeing of sentient beings and fellow countrymen are not only acts in accord with Buddhism, but also with the higher forms of Mahayana Buddhist teachings. Only an evil regime or its running dogs would consider them as acts of ‘terrorism.’

 

III

Chinese government is of the view that the self-immolation protests are carried out by a few monks on the order of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Such a view reflects its evil nature. So far more than 95 Tibetans have committed self-immolations. Of them 5 are from outside Tibet. More than 80 of them died, whereas 10 of them survived. Of 5 self-immolators from outside Tibet, two of them suffered severe injuries. Although both of them survived, they are suffering from many legal ramifications. Every time a Tibetan committed a self-immolation, thousands of Tibetans from that area gathered themselves to express their solidarity. They gave away lots of donations to conduct prayers and rituals for the self-immolator. For example, in Rebkong, when Jamyang Palden, Sonam Darge, Tamdin Thar, Dorje Lhundup, Tamdin Tso, Kelsang Jinpa, Nyingkar Tashi, Nyingchak Bum, Sangdak Tsering, Lubum Tsering, Tamdin Dorje, Sangye Dolma and others committed self-immolation, the local Tibetans gathered and expressed their solidarity. They raised money, organised prayers and rituals, some even wrote poems in their honor and memory. In short, I have personally witnessed how tens of thousands of local Tibetans expressed their solidarity through various ways.

All of these incidents reflect clearly that although the former are the only people in Rebkong who committed self-immolations, there are tens of thousands of Tibetans who share their aspirations and sentiments. Similarly, we heard through telephonic conversations and saw video footages of many Tibetans in Kham attending the funeral of one of the self-immolators. Even the funeral of a great Lama wouldn’t witness such large gathering of people expressing their respect and solidarity. Therefore, we can clearly assert that more than 80% of Tibet’s six million people are backing the self-immolators and share with their aspirations and demands. Chinese government’s claim that [aspirations] of the self-immolators are shared by a few monks, as a result, is nothing but evil talk.

 

IV

Chinese government’s accusation that the Dalai Lama has instigated the self-immolations is again nothing but evil talk. Usually, His Holiness the Dalai Lama advocates, not just to his own people but also to his non-Tibetan followers, that all conflicts should be resolved through peaceful dialogue. He would never call for Tibetans to burn themselves to register their protests. In fact, he keeps on advocating the need to resolve Sino-Tibetan conflict through Middle-Way approach, which he says would bring benefits to both sides.  However, instead of weighing its worth in gold, the Chinese government keeps on demonising His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his efforts. This is one of the main reasons why patriotic Tibetans are committing self-immolations.

If the Chinese government has evidence of His Holiness provoking his people to burn themselves for their country, it would definitely present them to the Tibetan people. But the Chinese government hasn’t presented any evidence. This shows that even the Chinese government has come to realize that the self-immolations are the direct result of its repressive policies. But the Chinese government pretends as if it doesn’t know anything, as it keeps on demonising His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is a clear manifestation of an evil regime showing its evil character.

 

V

Through its official media, and in the eyes of the people, the Chinese government condemns the self-immolators as conspirators who want to destroy the country. This too is an evil talk, because the aspiration of more than 90 self-immolators is to see His Holiness back to Tibet and to restore Tibetan people’s legitimate rights to pursue their own language, culture and religion. However, the Chinese government keeps holding its hard line stance, not paying an inch of attention and value to the demands and sacrifice of the self-immolators. Rather the Chinese government responds with severe repression, as it uses guns, authority, law and torture to suppress the demands of the self-immolators. Aren’t these proofs of the evil nature of the Chinese government?

 

VI

Through its official media, the Chinese government condemns the Tibetan self-immolators as being young ignorant minds manipulated and fooled by the propaganda emanating from outside [Tibet]. Such an accusation is nothing but evil talk. Among the more than 90 Tibetans who have committed self-immolations so far, there are mothers and fathers having children, tulkus, monks, nuns, laymen, students and so on and so forth. Some of the self-immolators were more than 60 years old; even the youngest among them, sixteen year olds, were mature enough in their thoughts and courage. They were way past the time when they could fall prey to propaganda and manipulation. Therefore, Chinese government’s accusation is nothing but evil talk, lacking in depth examination and analysis.

In short, more than 95 Tibetans from the three provinces of Tibet have committed self-immolations in protest against Chinese government’s repressive policies, their aspiration being the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet. Such protests have never occurred on this earth in the last hundred thousand years. It is a great peaceful protest –unprecedented in world history. However, the Chinese government has given more importance to money and status than to human lives. During the 18th session of the Chinese Communist party meeting, the delegates were talking only about money matters and leadership positions. They failed to give an iota of attention to the demands raised by sacrificing precious lives. This proves clearly that the Chinese government has no respect whatsoever to the fate of the Tibetan people and the way they violate basic human rights.

Finally, in connection with this serious matter, I would like to make a few suggestions to the Chinese government. Instead of demonising the self-immolations, indulging in accusations lacking serious analyses, telling lies befitting dictatorial regimes, the Chinese government should examine closely this great act of peaceful protest, which remains unprecedented in world history. It would be helpful if the Chinese government finds a viable solution to ensure that such protests do not happen again. Another clarification I want to make is that the self-immolators want His Holiness the Dalai Lama back in Tibet so that they could seek his blessings. Moreover, they are fighting for small freedoms that Tibetan people are entitled to. I appeal the Chinese government that rather than making the matters worse, it should make efforts to resolve it.