Tibetan Self-Immolations Demand Tibet’s Independence

Mr Sopa Tulku Self-Immolated For Tibet’s National Freedom


We hear from our colleagues running @tibettruth that there continues to be a minority of so-called supporters of Tibet who are choosing to either wilfully or unwittingly misrepresent the courageous sacrifices of those Tibetans who have self-immolated. Following on from the flawed petition on Tibet from Avaaz.org, that portrayed such actions as desperate and seeking religious freedom, we gather an English group calling itself ‘free tibet’ has been publishing tweets suggesting that ‘Tibetan self-immolations will continue until nations in the west take action’? Whether this is a bold assertion or some interpretation of events,  it is very misleading in creating the impression that this is somehow an objective of Tibetans who choose self-immolation as a protest. According to information from friends in England organizations there possess something of a record when it comes to misrepresenting the nature and objectives of Tibet’s true cause. Perhaps such Tibet related groups  suffer  from an aversion to the subject, or mention, of Tibet’s independence? Whatever maybe the facts we thought it would be useful to remind such organizations what Tibetans, who choose to set themselves ablaze, are actually demanding.

The most recent case took place on Sunday January 8 in the Golok area of Amdo in Eastern Tibet in which Mr Sopa Tulku (later reported by some sources as: Nyage Sonamdrugyu) dowsed in gasoline set himself ablaze shouting “Free Tibet”and  “Long life for His Holiness the Dalai Lama” .Sopa had also posted many flyers around the walls of the local town of Dari County. The following is a translation, courtesy of Dossier Tibet/Claudio Tecchio, of his poster and it is important to read exactly what he decided to make this fatal sacrifice for:

I am self-immolating to commemorate the Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009; for our national freedom and religious freedom, for liberty and freedom of speech. I am not self-immolating for my personal interests . but Tibetan people need to live a long life for Dalai Lama. Tibetan people need to unity, work hard for the future of Tibet. Don’t lose hope, there will be a happy day.” (Emphasis Added)

This testimony may well have been authored by all the other Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009, its objectives, hopes and demands are the very heartbeat of Tibet’s struggle for independence. It is certainly not the last statement of a despairing individual nor an appeal for western intervention or simply a call for China to moderate its policies in Tibet. It is a declaration of independence for Tibet and those organizations and individuals who choose to ignore, conceal or misrepresent that reality dishonor and betray the sacrifices of these brave Tibetan patriots.

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Categories Demonstrations, News Item8 Comments

8 thoughts on “Tibetan Self-Immolations Demand Tibet’s Independence”

  1. This would make for an interesting blog post if it weren’t such a shocking misprepresentation of what Free Tibet said.

    Free Tibet presented a political analysis which concluded that as long as the West sits back and chooses not to act, as long as the status quo is maintained and the world turns a blind eye to Tibet – self-immolations are likely to continue.

    That is nowhere near the same as saying that people in Tibet are self-immolating solely in order to provoke a response from the West.

    Are you seriously trying to say that you do not see the difference?

    It is frankly astonishing that you accuse Free Tibet of being ‘misleading in creating [an] impression’, when that is precisely what you are doing.

    I appreciate that you yourself may have been given misleading information about what Free Tibet posted. If so, it would be helpful if you said so instead of keeping this factual horror show on display.

    1. The points regarding misrepresentation remain, more so we hope you may agree, for any organization that in reporting the selfless sacrifices of Tibetan protesters decides to distort, conceal or ignore the very political objectives that Tibetans are struggling for. Which as you will be aware is not for simply human rights, a moderation in China’s policies; nor an appeal for foreign intervention, as suggested by a recent internet petition.

      On the basis of the assurances we were given respecting this matter, we are satisfied that a tweet, attributed to your group, read in the isolated context of Twitter (minus the ‘analysis’ you suggest) would convey, to those not fully knowledgeable with the issue of Tibet, a misleading impression that such actions sought intervention from the international community. We have no reasonable grounds therefore to dismiss the concerns, which we were alerted to and shall always report any distortion of Tibet’s true cause and the political aspirations of Tibetans in occupied Tibet.

      On that subject we received an interesting communication from AnonymousTibet who provided us with what looks to be a saved page from your website, highlighting the case of another Tibetan who self-immolated, Norbu Damdul. It seems to have been removed from your site, naturally a standard editorial practice which we also exercise from time-to-time. That said, the wording used does give further cause for concern, to those who would charge your group with misrepresentation on the issue of self-immolations in Tibet. We have for your convenience uploaded a copy of this page . It maybe difficult to read clearly the relevant comments so here they are:

      “Tibetans are taking their lives or risking imprisonment ..determined to draw attention to one of the world’s greatest and longest-standing human rights crisis

      Now if this is indeed archived information, and we currently have no reason to question that, saved from your site at that time then the words featured can hardly be considered not to be anything but a very unfortunate and disappointing misrepresentation of the objectives and demands made by Tibetan self-immolators. More so as Norbu Damdul had been reported by the respected Tibetan news source Phayul along with the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy as calling for Tibet’s ‘complete independence’ and freedom!

      Yet the presentation featured on that page makes no mention of that witnessed and reported fact, choosing to suggest that his actions had the goal of demanding human rights and interestingly, given the context of the concerns surrounding the tweet issued by your group, were designed to draw attention from presumably the wider world. Yet that is not what Norbu Damdul was demanding, as was the case in the most recent incidence of self-immolation (as evidenced by the moving statement of Sopa Tulku). Surely you can see the distinctions that others have no difficulty in noting? Norbu Damdul sought the independence of his country from Chinese occupation, he was prepared to take his life for that cause, we hope you may understand how folks reading such comments, seemingly once featured on your site, would reasonably speculate that your group had misrepresented the courageous actions of Tibetans who choose to offer their lives for national freedom?

    1. We have not included your recent contribution as it repeated points already made in your initial reply, and somewhat ironicaly was in parts a misrepresentation of what we are saying on this subject. You were extended the courtesy of a rejoinder to the original article, we replied to that, offering additional insight into the matter. People can read both and form their own view. There’s nothing to retract as this post simply aired questions on the misleading nature of a tweet from your group and how that could create an erroneous impression.

  2. Well, well, well – censored by a blog that prides itself on truth. The irony is incredible.

    The fact that you have chosen to censor free speech speaks volumes both about who is in the right about this and the unbelievable hypocrisy of those who run this site.

    Shame on you.

    1. We have included your somewhat unfortunate comments to illustrate to our readers and subscribers the interestingly fallacious and fact-free reaction you present, to what was standard editorial right to publish or not (based upon content, relevance etc). This is not an open ended forum but our official site and folks editing here have every freedom to exercise a decision, to include or not an item. You were clearly given reasons why your post was not on that occasion featured, that decision was not ‘censorship’ but considered editorship. Now returning to the central issue? The importance of ensuring that the selfless sacrifices of Tibetans, who self-immolate, demand to be represented accurately and not presented in any manner that would create misunderstanding, or a flawed impression. The tweet shared by your colleagues, as made clear, was in our view such an example in that its wording, associated the self-immolation of these Tibetan patriots with western action. In that context alone were concerns and speculation raised, both by the people who alerted us to this and from the author of the post itself.

      Concerning your latest contribution we are not interested in exchanging insults and are disappointed that as Editor of a public campaigning organization you appear to be sensitive to legitimate critique and debate. Yet on this subject there is much for folks to be critical about, and many will be asking, why a group dedicated to a Free Tibet seemingly censored the objectives and demands of Tibetan Norbu Damdul by making no reference upon its website of the fact that Norbu had demanded complete independence? Indeed it would be entirely reasonable for anyone possessed of integrity and normal intelligence to question why such flawed reportage went further and your group felt the need to state that Tibetans:

      .” are determined to draw attention to one of the world’s greatest and longest-standing human rights crisis”

      It is such wording that generates confusion and flawed impressions on this issue and forces people to conclude that this misrepresents the actual objectives and political demands of Tibetans who self immolate. Others may determine that knowing what these Tibetans were actually demanding, and being aware of detailed reports from respected Tibetan news sources, yet still issuing such a distorted coverage, is not only a highly unfortunate misrepresentation, but a shameful ommission and betrayal of precisely what these Tibetans are sacrficing therir lives for?

      It maybe that this coverage preceded your appointment as Editor, if so it’s to be hoped that any future cases of self-immolations will be reported upon your site more accurately and include the actual political demands issued by such protestors Meanwhile, be advised that again you have been granted a rejoinder, despite the unfortunate wording and tone of your response, having replied we now exercise our Editorial right to conclude this exchange and trust that in future your colleagues who operate your Twitter account will invest more attention to the wording of tweets to ensure that no misunderstanding occurs.

  3. With all due respect, I am a total supporter of Tibetan Independence, but the way you have written your criticisms confuses me. Firstly, I see nothing wrong with describing the act of self-immolation as “desperate.” Surely people do not choose this form of protest if they feel they have other avenues to express their grievances and seek change?? The situation has to be pretty dire, as it is in Tibet, before burning oneself to death becomes the best form of protest. It is nothing less than desperate, but certainly it is also an incredibly brave and selfless act. Perhaps you object to the fact that their courage is not mentioned?

    I think perhaps your larger message is that many people seem to only be trying to get China to “moderate” its policies rather than calling for full independence and a Free Tibet? This is often a problem for movements of national liberation; just look at how long governments tried to get Assad to act more reasonably in Syria rather than to call for his removal (which is now arguably the only option).

    I am sympathetic to your situation but I would advise you not to alienate many of your natural supporters who may not yet understand the need for full independence. Having worked myself with the Sandinista government who originally overthrew the dictator Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979, I speak from some experience. A broad coalition is often needed to force change, and allies are needed to form that. If you toned down your arguments you might find yourself working with more people and then gradually being able to influence them to take a clearer stand towards independence. Avaaz reaches MILLIONS of people, but if you alienate them you lose access to those people. What is better, raising the profile of suffering in Tibet to millions of people, or remaining ideologically pure in your political objectives but with far far fewer listeners?

    I don’t expect you to post this on your website, but I ask you to seriously consider this point, made from someone who really cares about TIbet and supports full and total independence.

    1. We appreciate your insights and welcome your contribution. Our concern is not as you suggest, but a matter of principle in that there are organizations who are fully aware of the true nature and motives of these sacrifices, yet have deliberaely misrepresented the objectives and actions of these courageous Tibetans. We note your point in terms of support, however we consider people more than capable of recognizing the essential wrong in distorting the truth on motives behind these self-immolations, such misrepresentation is an odious and cynical distortion of the facts and we shall always challenge and expose such actions. While no doubt Avaaz does some fine work with its petitions its one on Tibet was a disgrace and its wording misinformed over a million people, it should be that organization you target for alienating its followers from the truth of Tibet’s cause and reasons for the self-immolations. Regarding solidarity and unity, we stand with the Tibetan struggle waged inside occupied Tibet and have no wish to associate or support those, either individuals, or organizations who wilfully choose to reinterpret or disort Tibet’s true cause for independence. We trust and respect people to determine if they choose to support us.

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