Looking back upon the recent series of self-immolations by Tibetans, we can see that the first such case occurred on February 29, 2009, in Ngamdo, Aba County, while the second took place two years later in the same region on March 16, 2011. Since then, however, the number of self-immolations has grown rapidly and spread to other areas in Tibet to the point that, altogether, thirty-three Tibetans within Tibet and three in exile have made the ultimate statement of protest through the act of self-immolation as of March 30, 2012. Twenty-four of these protestors have furthermore made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Now, the question remains, how many more will be consumed by these flames?
These acts of self-immolation have placed the Chinese government in an extremely awkward position. For decades, the state has proudly proclaimed that it “liberated” Tibet and “emancipated the serfs,” thereby granting the Tibetan people the opportunity to lead a “happy life.” But if this is true, how can we account for the fact that so many Tibetans-- including monks, nuns, tulku, peasants, herders, fathers, mothers, and high-school students, ranging in age from 17 to 43, and all descendants of the “serfs” supposedly “liberated” by the glorious Chinese Communist Party-- have chosen to set themselves aflame? Why have they been driven to these acts of seeming desperation?
Eager to discredit these incidents as anything but acts of resistance to a tyrannical colonizing power, and hoping to hide the fact that Tibetan regions of China are facing unprecedented pressure from the state, the Chinese government and its mouthpiece Xinhua (New China News Agency) have engaged in a smear campaign, redirecting attention by questioning the morals and tarnishing the image of self-immolators. They underwrite those who have given their lives in these acts of protest by claiming, for example, that they are epileptic or have “other psychological problems,” are thieves, or have had “inappropriate sexual relations” or conflicts with their spouses. Such slander has been even more malicious when accusing self-immolations as being funded by the “Dalai clique” who “handed out cash for corpses.” At the same time, Xinhua portrays the state as a savior, claiming that protestors who try to self-immolate are “promptly rescued by the People’s Police responsible for maintaining law and order” and are “in stable condition.” Yet to this day, none of the self-immolating protestors “rescued” by the military police have returned home alive.
We should all be quite accustomed to such shameless conduct from Party mouthpieces by now. The sole purpose of their unrelenting attacks is to continue deceiving the people of their country and the people of the world. And it works. One prominent Chinese human rights advocate even recently joined in these attacks, asking “what have these self-immolating Tibetans ever done for the Han people?” Thankfully, some Chinese are not deceived by the party line. For example, the Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao has voiced criticism of the general silence on this issue on Twitter. As he wrote “this series of self-immolations has, with a few extremely rare exceptions, been met with a collective blindness and muteness by China’s public intellectuals. This is the elephant in the room, ignored by a conspiracy of silence. Those who engage in such silence are, however, just as shameless as those perpetrating the abuses.”
Of course, the Chinese government knows very clearly that their slander against the self-immolators will fail to have any effect upon our fellow Tibetans. Just as work units across Lhasa have held meetings to pass on the “instructions from above,” “self-immolations have spread from the Tibetan regions of Sichuan to Qinghai, and even to the Qamdo area of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, approaching ever closer to Tibet’s center, Lhasa. Full-scale mobilization is required to prevent such incidents in Lhasa.”
In cities, villages, and temples across this region, Tibetans are saying prayers for these heroic sons and daughters of our people. In many temples and monasteries, as well as in a number of ordinary people’s homes, offerings are made to the images of those who have given their lives. When I posted images of these protestors on my blog and wrote about their lives and their final acts, one young Tibetan left the following words in response: “I am recording the names, backgrounds, and achievements of each of these compatriots in my diary, as well as deep within my memory. I want to remember the names of these heroic sons and daughters of our nationality. I want to light a lamp and recite mantras for them, as an expression of my deepest reverence and respect.”
Written between January 15 and March 30, 2012
Translated by Kevin Carrico
回溯境内藏人一系列的自焚，2009年2月27日在安多阿坝发生第一起，2011年3月16日在安多阿坝发生第二起，这之 后，人数与日递增，地点涉及多处，截止2012年3月30日，已有33位境内藏人、3位流亡藏人，以自焚来表达最彻底的抗议。其中我们所知道的，已有24 人牺牲。而这之后，是否还会燃起焚身的火焰呢？
对于境内藏人的自焚，中国政府尴尬至极，因为一直以来，它总是宣称它“解放”了西藏的“翻身农奴”，让 藏族人民从此过上了幸福生活，可是这么多境内藏人自 焚，从17岁到43岁，有男僧有女尼也有仁波切，有农民有牧人，有孩子的父亲有孩子的母亲，还有女中学生，难道不都是被伟大的共产党“解放”了的“翻身农 奴”的后代吗？他们怎么会不顾一切地 自焚呢？
为了抹黑藏人的自焚是对殖民暴政的反抗，为了掩盖境内藏地遭到空前高压的事实，中国政府及其喉舌新华社采取污名化的手段，对自焚藏人进行道德 上的毁损，企 图使他们的形象沾上污点。比如，指自焚藏人或患有“癫痫病”、“精神方面有问题”，或是小偷，或“有不正当的男女关系”，或夫妻之间有矛盾，等等。甚至很 恶毒地诽谤藏人自焚是“达赖集团给钱买尸”。新华社还煞有介事地声称自焚藏人已“被治安民警及时施救”、“伤势稳定”，但是迄今为止，没有一个被军警带走 的自焚者生还。
我们已经习惯了中共喉舌的无耻行径，他们对自焚藏人不遗余力地污名化，只是为了继续欺骗自己国家的人民，继续欺骗全世界。这倒也有效 果，如中国个别维权人 士就参与其中，讥讽说“自焚的藏人为中国汉人做了什么？”但也有清醒之人，如中国的人权律师滕彪就在推特上批评：“藏人自焚这件事上，除了极少数几个例 外，中国公共知识分子们集体哑火、装聋作哑。房间里的大象，沉默的共谋。他们和行凶者一样无耻。”
当然，中国政府很清楚这样的污名化对于藏人不会有 效，为此拉萨各单位开会传达“上面”的指示：自焚已从四川藏区蔓延到了我区的昌都地区，蔓延到了青海藏区，离藏区的中心拉萨是越来越近了，必须动员所有力量，严防在拉萨发生类似自焚事件。 而在全藏地的许多城市、村庄和寺院，都在为民族的英雄儿女祈祷。甚至许多寺院和僧舍，许多藏人家里，都供奉着自焚藏 人的一张张照片。
当我在博客上贴出他们 的照片，写下他们的生平和自焚经过，一位年轻藏人这样留言：“我把每一位自焚同胞的名字、背景和事迹都记在我的日记本里，也深深地刻在我的脑海里，我要铭 记我们民族的英雄儿女，要为他们供油灯、念心咒，表达由衷的敬仰和尊崇。”
Woeser is a writer, blogger and activist, Invisible Tibet