By William Tucker
A Tibetan media outlet operating in exile is reporting that two teenage Tibetan monks set themselves on fire Monday morning to protest the Chinese government. The immolations occurred outside of the Kirti Monastery in Aba where many of the immolations have taken place over the past three years. This most recent immolation protest is claimed to be the 51st, but independent verification is hard to come by. Despite the claims by Beijing that Tibet has flourished under Chinese rule, foreign media is still banned from the region. Chinese media does confirm some immolation cases, but not all, leaving outsiders to rely on exile groups to provide information. Naturally, exile groups are political and have their own agenda making the reliability of their claims dubious at times. In immolation cases, however, family members or friends are often able to confirm the incidents.
Beijing has cracked down rather hard on Tibetan protests in the wake of the recent spate of immolations. What had been occurring is a seemingly spontaneous mass protest immediately following a public immolation. In response, China increase its police presence and has even placed authorities in some monasteries. Additionally, police try to put out the fire of the immolators quickly to prevent word of the event from spreading. This approach has had an impact on the protests, but it hasn’t managed to stop the immolations. China may become more heavy handed as these protests drag on. With a political transition currently underway, and a global economic malaise stifling China’s export oriented economy, civil protests from Han Chinese and Chinese minorities are not out of the question. How China reacts to this uncertainty will certainly put the incoming government to the test.
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