April 23, 2015
For the briefing on the history and update on the current human rights situation in Tibet for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, April 21, 2015.
When I began preparing my remarks for this briefing two weeks ago, I started with a mention of Radio Free Asia’s April 10th report of a Tibetan protester who burned herself to death. This was to be the 138th such protest by a Tibetan since 2009. The protester, Yeshi Khando, a 47 year old nun of the Chokri Ngagon Nunnery, set herself on fire and died close to the prison and police station in Kanzi, in eastern Tibet. Chinese Security forces immediately took away her body and later informed her family. But as of today, her body has not been handed over to her family.
Before I had compiled any further details of this story, another death took place on April 15th, this time by a 50 year old man, NeiKyab. Such deaths by fire are commonly referred to as “self-immolations”, a term much too mild, perhaps even suggestive of a religious practice or offering of some kind. In reality they are simple acts of protest and desperation. We know from the previous 137 who have died in similar manner, through their last words with friends and family and testaments they have left behind, that each one of them made their sacrifice hoping to draw attention to the unbearable injustice of Chinese rule over the Tibetan people. And almost every one of them have called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.