Tibetans Reach Out to Beijing on Suicides


December 13, 2011 4:05 pm

By Gordon Fairclough, The Wall Street JournalPRAGUE—Exiled Tibetan leaders, alarmed by a wave of suicide protests and what they view as deteriorating human-rights conditions for Tibetans inside China, want to restart negotiations with Beijing, a senior Tibetan official said.Tibet’s India-based government-in-exile floated its proposal for talks at the end of November, the official, Kelsang Gyaltsen, said Monday during a visit here by the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhists’ spiritual leader. He said there has been no response from Beijing.”It’s important to meet and find ways and means to defuse the very tense situation inside Tibet,” Mr. Gyaltsen, a Tibetan diplomat involved in past negotiations with China, said in an interview. “We are ready anytime, anywhere.”Tibetan leaders say they seek to resolve grievances against Beijing’s policies on religious, cultural and other issues.Chinese officials weren’t available to comment.Beijing has in the past blamed unrest in Tibet on the Dalai Lama, who this year said he was stepping down from his political role, and other exiled Tibetans. The two sides last met in early 2010.In October, two teenage monks set themselves on fire near a monastery, Tibetan activists said. It was the latest in a series of self-immolations by Tibetans that the community says are a protest against restrictions on Tibetans’ civil rights and religious freedoms in China.On Monday, the Dalai Lama, who was visiting Prague for a conference on human rights in Asia, declined to comment on the self-immolations. “At this moment, the best thing is silence,” he said, later adding: “It is very much a political question.”When protests erupted across Tibetan-populated parts of China in 2008, Beijing responded with large-scale arrests and the deployment of security forces. Mr. Gyaltsen said “intensified repression” was the likely cause of suicide protests, which have tended to involve younger Tibetans.These younger “generations of Tibetans ate much more politically conscious and assertive,” Mr. Gyaltsen said. They are “much more inclined to express their resentment and genuine grievances through public protests.” The protests result in crackdowns, leading to a “vicious cycle,” he added.China has made large investments in infrastructure in Tibet in an effort to raise standards of living there. But many Tibetans are unhappy with Chinese policies which, among other things, place limits on religious practices.In 2008, Tibet’s exiled leaders laid out a blueprint for what they considered an appropriate level autonomy for Tibet under which the region would remain part of the People’s Republic of China. Beijing wasn’t receptive.Write to Gordon Fairclough at gordon.fairclough@wsj.com