China need to prove ‘SELF-IMMOLATING SPY” STORY Story a tactic to distract international attention from the real issues of the Tibetan tragedy
18 May, 2001: Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, came out with a story today saying that it has caught two “spies” sent by the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Xinhua said that the stated mission of one Tibetan was to set himself on fire in Lhasa, and the other to videotape the whole self-immolation incident. Xinhua also said that one of the two was caught last year. The second one was caught this year on 5th May.
The Central Tibetan Administration categorically states that this story is absolutely false. The policy of the Tibet movement is based on non-violence as advocated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. To send two people to Tibet to set themselves on fire is against the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, which considers taking a life, especially one’s life, as a grave negative act. The credibility of the whole Tibet movement is based on these principles. We on our part, by word or deed, have not done anything to undermine this credibility.
In 1998 when a Tibetan set himself on fire in New Delhi to attract attention on the desperate plight of the Tibetan people in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made strong objections and urged all Tibetans in future not to resort to such acts.
Since the Chinese government has made this accusation, it is the responsibility of the Chinese authorities to prove the veracity of their accusation. They can only do this by giving these two Tibetans a fair and free re-trial, without fear of favour, so that the international community can get to the bottom of this strange accusation. Also the international media must be given unfettered access to these two Tibetans so that the free press can get to the bottom of the story.
However, what we find strange about “self-immolating spy” incident is the timing of the revelation of this story. According to the Xinhua report, the Chinese authorities claim they have caught the first Tibetan last year. Why has China waited for one whole year to reveal this sensational news?
The answer lies more in what is happening to the issue of Tibet around the world and in Tibet. The US Congress is in the process of debating a resolution on the Tibetan Policy Act, which if approved by the Congress, will tremendously strengthen US Administration’s humanitarian support for the Tibetan refugee community. At the same time today the Bush Administration announced a senior US official as the Special coordinator for Tibet issues. At the same time His Holiness the Dalai Lama is on an extremely successful tour of the United State and is scheduled to meet with President Bush sometime next week.
We are convinced that China’s sensational spy story revelation is a crude smear campaign against His Holiness the Dalai Lama to distract international public attention from the core issues of the Tibet movement.
However, the real reason for China’s revelation of the spy story could lie in Tibet itself. Just five days away, on 23 May, China commemorates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 17-Point Agreement, a dubious legal instruments with which China justifies its claim on Tibet. Like in China, so in Tibet, such anniversary is extremely sensitive because the general public use the occasion of the anniversary to publicly express their dissatisfaction with the government. So we feel the spy story revelation is an excuse which the authority will use to bring about increased law enforcement, stricter surveillance and general repressive measures.
As we have stated since the Chinese government has made the accusation it is the responsibility of the Chinese authorities to prove the truth of their accusations and they can only do this by giving a free and fair re-trial to the two accused “spies”.
At the same time we would like to state clearly that, despite His Holiness the Dalai Lama advice, there are many Tibetans who have signed up for onto-death hunger strikes organized by Tibetan NGOs like the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Cholka Sum organization. But over these organizations or the individuals who have signed up for such hunger-strikes, the Tibetan Administration has no control.
Thubten Samphel Spokesperson Central Tibetan Administration Dharamsala