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Foreign Office comments on self-immolations PDF Print E-mail
[15 November 2011] In response to comments left on the Foreign Office's Human Rights and Democracy website by Tibet Society members and other Tibet supporters concerning the ongoing crackdown at Kirti and the recent self-immolations by young Tibetan monks and nuns, the Foreign Office has posted a further comment saying, "We are deeply concerned about reports of unrest at the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, a Tibetan area of Sichuan Province, including those reports of self immolations which have occurred since the end of this updating period ..." Excerpt of their comment shown below.

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Take Action  |  FCO Response  I  FCO quarterly update  I  US statement at press briefing  I  German statement  I  Further Actions | Self-immolations case profiles |

FCO logoIt is encouraging that this additional statement at least indicates the Foreign Office reads comments and, on occasion, is moved to respond. However, it would be considerably stronger if the concerns held were expressed publicly in a statement that also draws attention to the draconian policies being carried out by Chinese authorities in monasteries that are driving Tibetan monks and nuns to self-immolate in acts of desperation, and calls on China to rethink its policies in Tibet as the current crackdown is palpably not bringing stability or harmony to Tibetans.

Although the original comments and the additional statement are welcome, the British government must do more to help bring an end to the Chinese government's oppression in Tibet which has driven 11 Tibetans to take the drastic action of self-immolation this year (to date).

It is time for the government to come out with a robust public statement of concern; one that supports and follows up statements made the US State department and the Speaker of the German Foreign Ministry in September and October and, just last week the US Secretary of State, by Hillary Clinton, when speaking in Honolulu prior to a summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organisation. In this speech, Hillary Clinton said the US had “made very clear our serious concerns about China's record on human rights,” and went on to say, “We are alarmed by recent incidents in Tibet of young people lighting themselves on fire in desperate acts of protest.”

The situation in Tibet is like a tinderbox; it is increasingly imperative that the Chinese government must be shown that it cannot continue with its current policies of extreme repression and clampdown on basic freedoms and human rights in Tibet. They are increasingly exacerbating the deep frustrations and grievances of the Tibetan people, in particular Tibetan monks and nuns who cannot practice their religion or follow their beliefs freely. If this continues, there is a clear and evident danger that the tragic self-immolations or similar acts will continue.

ENOUGH: Stand up for Tibet now ... Take Action
Send a message via the FCO website, calling on the British government to strongly and publicly voice its concern over the self-immolations, condemn the ongoing oppression in Tibet and to call on the Chinese government to ease tensions by withdrawing its troops from Kirti monastery and Tibetan regions and reviewing its policies in Tibet.

Click here to go to the Human Rights report update on the FCO website. The comment section is at the bottom of the page, the oldest comments are shown at the top, so be patient and scroll down! (Note: Public comments on the Foreign Office's website are read and noted by Foreign Office officials and do get response, as we have seen by the FCO Digital Diplomacy Team's reply on 21 October.)

Urge the British government to:
make a robust public statement of concern, in light of the recent immolations, which calls on the Chinese government to ease tensions by withdrawing its troops from Kirti monastery in Ngaba and to review its policies in Tibet to bring an end to the oppression of the Tibetan people.
continue to raise their concerns about China's human rights policies with their Chinese counterparts at every opportunity
raise the self-immolations incidents with the Chinese Ministry of Religious Affairs, asking why, if there is religious freedom in Tibet as is purported, monks and nuns are undertaking such drastic forms of protest.


Extract from FCO Digital Diplomacy Team response
Published 21 October 2011

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office thanks contributors for their comments. We are deeply concerned about reports of unrest at the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, a Tibetan area of Sichuan Province, including those reports of self immolations which have occurred since the end of this updating period. We have raised these concerns both with the Chinese Embassy in London and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, asking for information and calling for restraint. Jeremy Browne wrote to the Chinese Ambassador on 3 May 2011 raising our concerns at recent human rights developments in China, including the situation at Kirti Monastery. At the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011, the EU issued a statement calling on the Chinese authorities to refrain from the use of force in dealing with the situation at the Kirti Monastery, and to allow independent observers to the site. British Embassy officials in China make regular visits to Tibetan areas, and have done so recently. We have kept in frequent contact with the Foreign Affairs Office in Sichuan and local Public Security Bureau offices regarding access to these areas. We urge the Chinese government to work with local monasteries and communities to resolve the grievances which have led to these self immolations." Read the full response here
Extract from FCO update regarding Tibet
Published 21 October 2011 (for period July - September 2011)
"On 15 August, a 29-year-old monk, Tsewang Norbu, from Nyitso Monastery in Tawu County, in Western Sichuan’s Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, died after setting himself on fire, apparently in protest against China’s policies in the region. On 2 September, three monks from Kirti Monastery were sentenced to between 10 and 13 years in prison for their alleged role in assisting a similar self-immolation in Ngaba County, Sichuan. We understand at least ten monks have now been imprisoned in connection to these incidents. The Chinese state news agency reported two subsequent self-immolations at the Kirti Monastery on 26 September. We have raised these incidents with the Chinese Embassy in London and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. British Embassy officials in China make regular visits to Tibetan areas, and have kept in frequent contact with the Foreign Affairs Office in Sichuan and local Public Security Bureau offices regarding access to these areas." Read the full update on China on the FCO website
US government statements
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton - 11 November 2011
The Guardian
| Reuters | The Hindu |

US State Department - 18 October 2011 - daily press briefing
Question: Have we raised the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with the Chinese government?
Answer: Yes, we have, and we remain seriously concerned by reports, since April, of eight Tibetan Buddhist monks and one nun self-immolating at or near the Ngaba Kirti monastery in China’s Sichuan province. These acts clearly represent anger and frustration with regard to Tibetan human rights, including religious freedom, inside China. We again call on the Chinese Government to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms; and particularly to respect the rights of Tibetans; to resolve the underlying grievances of China’s Tibetan population. We urge Chinese leaders to address counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions; and to protect Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity.

US State Department - 27 September 2011 - daily press briefing
Question: What is the State Department’s response to press reports that two Tibetan monks set themselves on fire at a monastery in western China to protest Chinese policies in the area?
Answer: We are seriously concerned by reports of two recent self-immolations of monks from the Ngaba Kirti monastery in China’s Sichuan province. In light of the continuing underlying grievances of China’s Tibetan population, we again urge Chinese leaders to respect the rights of Tibetans, to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension, and to protect Tibetans’ unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity. We continue to urge the Chinese Government to allow access to Tibetan areas of China for both journalists and diplomats.

German government statement
German Foreign Ministry - 21 October 2011 - The speaker of the German Foreign Ministry, Mr Andreas Peschke, quoted in Deutsche Presse-Agentur on the self-immolations.

Federal government 'appalled' at self-immolations in Tibet
(translation of DPA article)
The federal government is 'appalled' at the rising number of self-immolations in the Tibetan regions of Southwest-China. The foreign office urged China on Friday to 'shape their policies in a way that existing tensions are relieved'. It asked the Dalai Lama - the religious head of the Tibetans - to discourage young monks and nuns from further self-immolations.

Out of protest against the Chinese rule in Tibet, at least nine persons have self-immolated in the Tibetan region of Sichuan province since March. For the first time this week, a young nun was among the Tibetans who self-immolated. The centre of tensions is the monastery of Kirti on the edges of Aba town (Tib: Ngaba).

The speaker of the foreign ministry, Andreas Peschke, said, the federal government had repeatedly urged China to allow for transparency an access to the monastery. The federal government was 'in permanent contact on different levels'. At the same time, he asked the Dalai Lama to exert his influence so that "these young monks do not continue to go this terrible path.

Tibet Society, the world’s first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. (Annual membership £24; Overseas £36; Life £500).

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