China: Dalai Lama behind self-immolation protests
BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday accused the Dalai Lama and his associates of planning the self-immolation by a Tibetan exile in India days before China's president visits, repeating past assertions blaming the spiritual leader for dozens of such protests.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei offered no evidence linking the Tibetan spiritual leader to the exile who lit himself on fire and ran shouting through a demonstration in New Delhi on Monday.
He said the Dalai Lama and his associates have been instigating Tibetan independence and creating "disturbances" and that showed the Dalai Lama and his associates "single-handedly" planned the man's self-immolation.
"These acts aimed at achieving Tibetan independence and separatism through taking people's lives will never possibly be successful and will be severely condemned by the international community," Hong told reporters at a regular news briefing.
About 30 such protests have occurred over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China, and a Tibetan self-immolated last year in India, where many exiles reside.
The Tibetan self-declared government-in-exile has rejected the Chinese government's accusations and issued statements discouraging self-immolation.
"In the long-term interest of the Tibetan cause, we urge Tibetans to focus on secular and monastic education to provide the necessary human resources and the capability to strengthen and sustain our movement," the group said in a statement Tuesday. "We once again remind Tibetans to refrain from drastic actions."
Tibetans inside China and exiles say China's crackdown on Tibetan regions is so oppressive, those who choose such a horrific form of protest feel they have no other way to express their beliefs.
Jamphel Yeshi, 27, lit himself on fire during a demonstration against Chinese rule over Tibet and against Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India this week.
Photos and video of Yeshi in flames were widely circulated across the globe in contrast to previous self-immolations that have happened in Tibetan areas in China that are subject to an intense security crackdown and largely inaccessible to the media.
Yeshe's cousin and roommate, Sonam Wangyal, said Yeshe was from a farming family in a Tibetan region of Sichuan province and had been unemployed since moving to New Delhi. He was a regular at Tibetan protests but had never talked about burning himself alive, Wangyal said.
He was clearly torn about what his cousin did.
"He is so badly burned," he said, after visiting Yeshe in the burn ward at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi. But "all the Tibetan people are suffering. ... We are fighting for freedom. The world should know this."
He described Yeshe's condition as "very very critical," with burns covering 98 percent of his body. Yeshe didn't appear to understand that he was in the hospital, Wangyal said.
Activists say India was detaining hundreds of Tibetans who protested Monday. Legally, they can be held for up to a week.
Associated Press writer Tim Sullivan contributed to this report from New Delhi.