China punishes protest self-immolations, cuts off aid to Tibetans

The Chinese authorities in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province have announced the cancellation of government aid to families of self-immolators as well as development projects in villages where Tibetans had carried out protest self-immolations.

In the past three weeks, nine Tibetans have died of protest self-immolations in Rebkong County. On 9 November, about 5000 Tibetan schoolchildren held a peaceful protest march against the alarming official apathy towards rising numbers of protest self-immolation in Rongwo town before gathering at Rongwo Monastery.On 8 November, Tibetan schoolchildren in Dowa Township (Rebkong County) took down Chinese flags from their school building and the Township government office building.

In an official notification issued on 14 November by the Malho Prefectural office and Malho People’s government, local Party and government officials have been sternly given orders to punish self-immolators and their families; even those who had offered condolences and prayers to the bereaved family members and relatives.

A source told TCHRD that the notification, issued both in Tibetan and Chinese, was shown on Malho Prefectural TV channel. Only the Tibetan version is available with TCHRD.

The first point in the notification clearly states that government aid to the family members of a person who had self-immolated will be cut off for three years. In this regard, all prefectural government offices and related sections and staff have been ordered to act strictly. No one is allowed to arrange for the resumption of government aids to such families. Development funds will be cancelled to those villages where self-immolations took place; even those projects that had been approved earlier will be cancelled within three years.

In areas where these self-immolations took place, the County Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will carry out detailed investigation into the failure of Township or Village leaders and relevant Party officials to protect “stability” and “harmony”. If found responsible, these Township, Village and Party leaders will be investigated thoroughly and they will not be considered for any model worker prizes by the government in future. They will be relieved of their posts and new recruits shall be made in their place. The notification also said severe measures will be taken, according to rules and regulations of the Party and the government, against guilty officials for their inability to implement orders from the Party and the government.

The second point calls for thorough investigation to determine whether any government officials and staff had visited the homes of self-immolators to offer condolences or contributions for prayer ceremonies. Officials of the County and Township government as well as the CPC Committee should advise and guide these officials on the implication of such visits. The Public Security Bureau officers will “strike hard” on those who do not listen to such guidance.

The third point asks relevant government and Party officials to give advice and guidance to monks and lay Tibetans on the consequences of visiting homes of self-immolators to offer condolences and contributions for prayer rituals. If members of the Monastery Management Committees (MMCs) are found guilty in this respect, officials from the United Front Work Department, Religious Affairs Bureau and related government bureaus will handle these cases and punish them accordingly. If a village or a monastery has collectively organized prayer ceremonies and visits to the families of self-immolator, then the whole village will get no government aid. All development projects approved earlier in the village will be cancelled within three years.

The fourth point calls for a quick and thorough investigation to see whether any person, both monks and lay, had arranged and forced some officials to visit the prayer ceremonies for self-immolators. The guilty will be punished, according to the law, after detailed investigation. If village leaders are found involved in such acts, they will be relieved of their position and will be interrogated and investigated.

If high lamas [or abbots] and members of Democratic Management Committees are found involved in such acts, the notification says their monasteries will be closed following the relevant laws and required steps would be taken to purge these monasteries of instability. Heavy punishment shall be given to those who attempt to organize themselves or form associations or groups.

The fifth point warns the average government cadres and workers from visiting homes of self-immolators and offering contributions for prayer rituals, the offence of which will attract immediate firing, followed by investigations and punishments. The government cadres and workers have been ordered to publicise the importance of the implementation of the measures listed in this notification. They are required to inform the Party and government offices in timely manner if they get any information about the matters listed in the notification.

In its introduction, the notification mentions continued incidents of instability in Malho Prefecture calling them a bad example for everyone, harming not only the stability of Province, but also that of the whole nation. As is usual in many of Chinese government pronouncements, the so-called “Dalai clique”, has been held responsible for instability in the region. “The Dalai clique, wearing religious robes, use self-immolations to create instability,” it said, adding, they are also responsible for inciting schoolchildren to create disturbances and instability. The notice expressed disapproval against the use of the word “martyr” by the “Dalai clique” to describe self-immolators.

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