Self-immolation truth: Tibetan Buddhism kidnapped by politics

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Stepping into Aba county, where most self-immolations have taken place recently, one can get close to understanding the answer.

A total of 20 Tibetans, including eight monks, two nuns, eight former monks and two lay people, mostly aged from 16-25 except two, had committed self-immolation since Feb 2009 here. Of them, fifteen died and five were under hospital treatment, according to local police.

Across the country, the total number of Tibetans who had committed self-immolation exceeds 30, all in Tibetan populated regions.

The two most well-known people who committed self-immolations are Tapey, who triggered the latest wave of self-immolation by setting himself on fire at the age of 20 on Feb. 27, 2009, and Phuntsog, 19, who ended his life in a pre-meditated self-immolation on March 16, 2011. Both came from a capital-strained single-parent family, received little formal education and grew up in the Kirti Monastery from an early age, according to police.

Tapey is now recovering and refused to touch upon the subject of self-immolation with visitors. The hospital in charge of his medical treatment has paid in advance more than 2 million yuan, but the chances for him to fully recover are slim, doctors said.

In the latter case, police found that days before the self-immolation was committed, Kirti monks Rabten and Dorje had used a desktop of an Internet cafe to communicate with Chodrum, a member of the media relations team of Shiwa Dratsang where the Kirti Living Buddha resides, to send photography of Phuntsog.

With some 2,000 monks, Kirti Monastry is historically connected with 50 or so Tibetan temples, big and small, including the Caodeng Monastery involved in the Barkam tragedy.

Kirti Living Buddha fled with the 14th Dalai Lama after a failed insurgency in March 1959 and has since lived in Dharamshala, India, to orchestrate secessionist activities.

Since the late 1970s, 168 monks have been found to have illegally left to India. A number of them have dedicated themselves to disseminating among young monks a sense of separatism, brainwashing them to confront the government, according to sources with the Aba police authority.

Less than one hour after the self-immolation, Phuntsog was promoted throughout the overseas Tibetan community as "a martyr in protest of the Han Chinese rule and repression in Tibet," police said.

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