Dalai Lama presses China to investigate Tibetan self-immolations

TOKYO Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:45am EST

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is greeted by members of the Japanese parliament upon his arrival at the upper house members' office building in Tokyo November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is greeted by members of the Japanese parliament upon his arrival at the upper house members' office building in Tokyo November 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

TOKYO (Reuters) - Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday urged Japanese parliamentarians to visit Tibet, and for China to investigate the dozens of self-immolations by Tibetans.

"I always ask the Chinese government: Please, now, thoroughly investigate. What is the cause of these sort of sad things?" the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama told a group of Japanese lawmakers.

Earlier this month, 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.

China maintains that Tibet is an integral part of China and that other countries hosting the Dalai Lama amount to interference in domestic Chinese affairs.

"The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities in the guise of religion," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.

"The Japanese government has been conniving with the separatist activities of the Dalai Lama and Japanese right-wing forces, which goes against the principle and spirit of China-Japan strategic relations of mutual benefit," Hong said.

The Dalai Lama's remarks in Tokyo came against a backdrop of rising tension between Beijing and Tokyo over a territorial dispute.

Japan nationalized two disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese, by purchasing them from their private owners in September.

Shinzo Abe, the leader of the conservative opposition Liberal Democratic Party, welcomed the Dalai Lama to the event. Abe, who served as Japan's prime minister in 2006-07, could take the helm again after an election expected to be called as early as next month.

China also faces a pending leadership change for the first time in a decade, with leader in-waiting Xi Jinping expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as Communist Party head at a congress in Beijing this month, and then become president in March.

The Dalai Lama on Tuesday also called upon China to follow the example of its late former leader Deng Xiaoping, who is credited with reforms that brought the market economy to the country.

"I always express the leaders should follow Deng Xiaoping's sort of advice: seeking truth from fact. That's very, very important," he said.

(Reporting by Lisa Twaronite, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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Comments (14)
Spacetime wrote:
Does this guy still have any leverage to “press” China?

Nov 13, 2012 8:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
Janeallen wrote:
The Dalai Lama still has some leverage through his command of many listening ears in the world, whether China considers this reality fair or not, reasonable or not.

What’s puzzling to me is: not that long ago, when the Dalai Lama was interviewed about the “old tradition” of self-immolation, he practically defended it on American news. I remember he basically said, on American camera, that yes, it’s sad, but there are situations when exceptions are reasonable. For somebody like me, who never takes any indirect or second hand report about the Dalai Lama seriously, and relies on what he said on camera or in video, this was a form of condonement of self-immolation as an exception though he stopped short of extending the condonement, in general terms, as a rule. He should be well aware of his God like status among very traditional Tibetans, particularly Tibetan monks. So it should not be too surprising that a slew of self-immolations were committed thereafter, almost exclusively by Tibetan monks who are very young.

The Dalai Lama should know the effect of democratic elections of the Tibetan Government in exile in India. That meant a great loss of political power and prestige for Tibetan monks. Before those elections, Tibetan monks were potential top leaders of Tibetan communities, by tradition. That’s because traditionally, when the current Dalai Lama eventually passes on, a baby will be bestowed the title of Dalai Lama by a group of top Tibetan monks, who will bring up the child. Until the child grows up, the de facto leader will be the top group of Tibetan monks. There’s no doubt a great deal of politicking about who should be at the top occurs at the time also, but the young monks at the prestigious monastery, where the self-immolations are still occurring, would be candidate, particularly if they go into exile. However, the democratic elections destroyed the expectations these prestigious young monks had hung on since they first became monks. It’s like Catholic priests who chose celibacy when priests were demi-gods to their parents and their community, but discovered some ten, fifteen years later, that priests suddenly have the opposite reputation due to the sex scandals. They are suddenly faced with choices that can drastically make them heroes again — that can be very tantalizing for these very young men, who don’t have exposure to any other viewpoints.

So the Dalai Lama may be in a bubble himself, surrounded by Hollywood celebrities who live in the false belief that they are the characters they play in movies, and seem to have an unbelievable amount of discretional income from living in fantasy rather than in real life on earth. However, the Dalai Lama needs to start living in reality, because Tibetans, whether living inside China, or under the Government in exile in India, all have to face real questions of making a living, the education or future of their children, the pressures from competition in the real world, etc etc.

So if Dalai Lama is realistic, his rhetoric did condone the practice of self-immolation. The fact that the Arab Spring was started by a person who set himself on fire, was definitely not lost on the Tibetan monks. However, the situation in Tunisia and that in China, or even in the Tibetan Government in exile in India are very different.

So why the Dalai Lama suggests that there is some mystery, is itself a conundrum. It seems that the Dalai Lama, was living in, and speaking from the Hollywood bubble when he made the comment.

Hollywood life is not real. The money they make is real; the retreat center the Hollywood celebrities frequent are actual place on earth not but places where real people who have to face ordinary challenges of making a living won’t show up, or even get mentioned.

Like Hollywood celebrities, Tibetan monks were placed on a pedestal. Yet, they are not really super-Gods, just like Hollywood celebrities aren’t the characters they play, like Christopher Reeves is not superman, and cannot just walk away from his paralysis. That’s tough for the young Tibetan monks to swallow now. That’s why, your holiness Dalai Lama. The answer is in plain view for your; you just have to start living in reality, for the sake of your people.

Nov 13, 2012 7:26pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Pterosaur wrote:
Poor tibetains continue to burn themselves up under the lies of this smiling ex-CIA Lama.

Nov 13, 2012 11:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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