Video from inside a Tibetan community under lockdown, as self-immolations continue

The Guardian's Asia correspondent Jonathan Watts sneaks into Aba, a remote town on the Tibetan plateau, and captures this video report of how Chinese authorities are trying to stamp out dissent among ethnic Tibetans through military security, propaganda and forced 're-education.'

More context and links at the NYT Lede blog. A BBC News crew attempted to make the same trek, and were repeatedly harassed by Chinese forces. Video here, includes graphic shots of self-immolations.

Today, the latest in an ongoing string of Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese policies: a 19-year-old Tibetan monk set himself on fire in the same Sichuan province town where the Guardian video was captured.

The self-immolation of Losang Gyatso, a monk at the Kirti monastery is reported to be the second self-immolation by a Tibetan teenager in three days, and the 23rd since last March.

China's Vice President Xi Jinping, the man expected to take leadership of the Communist Party later this year, began his first visit to the US today. He is scheduled to meet with US president Barack Obama Tuesday. From the WSJ:

Outside the White House, Tibetan activists staged the first of several demonstrations they are planning during his visit to protest Chinese policies in Tibet, which they blame for a series of self-immolations by ethnic Tibetans over the past year.

(image, top: screenshot of Guardian video. inset: screenshot of BBC News video.)


    1. Hi Al. I imagine the Chinese Government is considering starting their own Darwin Award scheme. Though as the monks have already removed themselves from the gene pool it would be harder to argue that they’ve improved it by committing suicide this way.

  1. Would be so good if the interwebs could do a difference here,
    Tibet could be Chinas Archilles HeelThnx Xeni & Free Tibet

  2. I wonder what a western government would do if groups of young priests from some oppressed minority (and we all have them, usually as a result of past imperialism) suddenly started committing suicide in public this gruesome way? Boingboing recently has provided us with quite a few stories are arbitrary arrest, illegal use of pepper spray, and what amounts to a police crack-down in the USA. And that was for largely peaceful protests. If the protests involved the repeated public self-immolation of priests? Can you imagine what the response would be? I imagine crack-down would hardly begin to describe it. 

    1.  If that were to happen here – well – it would no longer be a slow news day. It would probably be the main topic of news for at least 2 or 3 days before we forgot about it.

    2. I wonder what a western government would do if groups of young priests from some oppressed minority (and we all have them, usually as a result of past imperialism)

      Oppressed minorities? Yes, but not in the same fashion that China does. There is “culture and history of discrimination” oppressed and then there is “systematically trying to make sure the next generations don’t know you ever existed” oppressed. I’m happy to say that you would have to be stretching pretty damn far to find a current example of the second in any western democracy.

      While we should avoid whitewashing our own history, ignoring the truly enormous amounts of progress that have been made is not productive. And making equivalencies between the state of things here and things in China is deeply counter-productive. It leads people to think “hey, things aren’t THAT bad here, so they can’t be bad in China either”.

      1. Hi Ryan

        Agreed that the situation in China is different – it’s more like the Western world in the 19th century. 

        I’m assuming that Boingboing readers aren’t stupid, and can make accurate comparisons between where ever they are and China/Tibet. So I wonder… “deeply counter-productive” in what sense? Counter-productive implies that something productive is going on. Do you include Buddhist monks setting themselves alight in public places and dying agonising deaths as part of this productivity?

        I suppose we can be glad they aren’t using bombs and blowing things up, but burning yourself in public is a terrible act of violence. It seems to me to hurt the Tibetan people more than anyone else. Who the fuck cleans up the mess? 

        We’re 80% water. We don’t burn well. In that situation the burning will be far from complete – the accelerant burns quick and hot, but not for long. It might go a bit longer if it’s hot enough to melt the body fat and it burns. But unlikely I think. Probably the skin will mostly burn off leaving a charred, but largely intact corpse oozing body fluids all over the place.  It will smell like barbecue, which creates a weird kind of dissonance – the smell of cooked meat is attractive, but it’s coming from what’s left of a human being which is revolting. With any luck when you pick the remains up, they will come as one piece. It might stick to the ground though, and when you pull, bits might come off and need to be scraped up separately. I wonder who does road cleaning in Tibet? 

        And will it soften the Chinese approach to Tibet? Well, we’ve already seen that the answer is no. The suicides have the effect of making the life of Tibetans even more miserable as the police crack down on them. 

        “deeply counter-productive” is a phrase. to meditate on.

  3. I haven’t studied this at all, so maybe the answer is obvious, but I’ve never understood why China cares about what people in Tibet believe.  Or about Tibet at all.  Same goes for Taiwan.  China has a huge amount of territory, why not just let others live their lives however they want?  The same thing goes for pretty much every other country in the world, I guess.  WTF is up with the need to control what others believe?  Live your own pathetic life and, if you’re ideas are so damned great, people will flock to them.  Otherwise, leave others the fuck alone.


      why not just let others live their lives however they want?

      You seem to have missed the whole point of a totalitarian state…

    2. I’m fairly sure its not entirely about them caring about what people in Tibet believe…  Tibet used to be a Buddhist theocracy until the chinese violently changed that.  So being Buddhist is also seen as being politically opposed to Chinese rule.  That’s what I surmise anyway…

  4. The notion of “lockdown”, whether applied to school children or ethnic groups, is completely offensive.  We are not prisoners.  We will not be kidnapped by the state under the name of “lockdown”

    You cannot GPS us.  We will GPS you.  And photograph, video, etc.   You cannot do a U-turn around a citizen checkpoint.

    We are legion.  We do not forget… what do we not forget? 

    1.  they’ll just arrest you for loitering instead… then you’ll lose your job and end up in a tent city…

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