Tibetan Activist Talks About the Alarming Escalation of Self-Immolations in China

Tibetan activists protest after self-immolations increase

At least 88 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009, a figure that is rising daily. © Gerardo Angiulli / Demotix

At least 75 Tibetans – including many Buddhist monks and nuns – have set themselves on fire this year. Many shouted for the return of the Dalai Lama and for freedom for Tibetans as they burned and some made the same demands in written statements.

This escalation in self-immolations in Tibetan-populated areas in China, including the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring provinces, saw 24 people set themselves ablaze in November alone.

The total number of Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009 currently stands at 88, a figure that is now rising daily.

Bobpa Tsang – not his real name – is a Tibetan activist now living in London. He told Amnesty International how he respects those Tibetan protesters who self-immolate.

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Free My Husband

Picture of Lhamo Tso

Lhamo Tso - wife of Dhondup Wangchen © Amnesty International

My name is Lhamo Tso and I’m writing today to ask for your help securing the release of my husband, Dhondup Wangchen.

In 2008 Dhondup made a film called “Leaving Fear Behind,” capturing the voices of fellow Tibetans on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China was awarded the prestigious Games with the hope that human rights in Tibet and elsewhere in China would improve.

Instead, China’s repression in Tibet has only worsened.

Attempts by Tibetans to secure their human rights are routinely crushed. Dhondup has been punished severely. He was tortured and held without charge for nearly a year, then sentenced in a secret trial to six years imprisonment for “inciting separatism.”

My husband has committed no crime.

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Flames of Despair in Tibetan Protest for Human Rights

Lhamo Tso wife imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen

Lhamo Tso, the wife of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, in New York, March 9, 2012. (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Tibetan exile Jampa Yeshi committed the ultimate act of protest Monday by setting himself on fire in New Delhi on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India.  Horrific photographs of his self-immolation [warning: graphic image] quickly spread around the world via the Internet and India’s dynamic press, galvanizing the cause of Tibetans fighting to draw international attention to human rights violations committed by the Chinese government in Tibet.

Although Yeshi was one of nearly 30 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves over the past year to protest Chinese government policies, outsiders have rarely seen such agonizingly clear documentation of the immolations before now. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Dalai Lama 'Shine a Light on Human Rights' Award Event

Amnesty International USA is honored to present His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama with the first-ever Shine a Light on Human Rights award in recognition of his lifelong commitment to social justice and human rights on Wednesday, May 4th at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been nothing less than a champion of equality, human rights and nonviolent resistance for Tibetans and affected communities around the world. He has been awarded dozens of accolades, most notably the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his work advocating for nonviolence when dealing with the Chinese government.

The Dalai Lama has carried the hopes of the Tibetan people on his back for the past 50 years as he’s traveled the world to meet with foreign dignitaries and every day citizens alike, to spread his simple message of compassion. We are extremely privileged to be able to honor his work with this award.

Private Breakfast Reception with the Dalai Lama

The morning of May 4th, we will be hosting a Private Breakfast Reception with His Holiness the Dalai Lama with 10 Amnesty activists from around the country – one of them could be you! We’re selecting activists based on their record of achievement and leadership within our movement. Applications for the private breakfast are due on April 10th.

We hope you can join us at this historic event in during our 50th anniversary year. If you can’t make it in person, check back on our website at amnestyusa.org/dalailama where we will stream the event live on May 4th.

Former Prisoner of Conscience Releases Film, Tibet in Song

Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan entho-musicologist and Fulbright Scholar, set out to make a film about traditional Tibetan music and dance. A year later, he was wrongly convicted of “espionage and counter-revolutionary activities.”  China announced that he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. The trial was closed, and no evidence has ever been made public.

Ngawang Choephel was held in Powo Tramo prison and was reported to be in poor health, suffering from ”bronchitis, hepatitis and respiratory infections”.

Choephel’s conviction and imprisonment spurred an outcry from human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International. Many wrote letters pleading for his release as Amnesty considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.

These efforts paid off at last in January 2002, when Choephel was granted his freedom, after serving more than six years in Chinese prisons. “You just can’t believe he got out,” said Kate Lazarus, Amnesty’s Tibet specialist, who met Choephel soon after his arrival. “You dream and you hope that these people will be released, but you never know.”

At the time of his detention he had been gathering material for the production of a documentary film about traditional Tibetan performing arts.

Tibet in Song opens September 24, 2010

The documentary he was working on prior to his arrest in China is finally being released in the U.S. on September 24thTibet in Song is a feature length documentary that celebrates traditional Tibetan folk music and encompasses a harrowing journey into the past fifty years of cultural repression inside Chinese controlled Tibet.

Director and former Tibetan political prisoner, Ngawang Choephel, weaves a story of beauty, pain, brutality and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film.  Ngawang Choephel sets the stage for a unique exploration of the Chinese impact on Tibetans inside Tibet.

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The Dalai Lama on Human Rights

On Human Rights Day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shared his insights into the importance of NGOs in fighting human rights abuses worldwide, specifically expressing thanks to Amnesty International.  We thank His Holiness for his kind words and continued commitment to human rights!  Watch his speech here: