Target: Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China
Goal: Stop the rise of self-immolation by the Tibetan people by allowing them their religious and educational freedoms.
On March 3, 2012, 20-year-old Tsering Kyi walked out of a public restroom and into the middle of a produce market in the Gansu province near Tibet. With gasoline-soaked blankets bound tightly around her body by wire, she made her way to the street where she promptly set herself on fire. In a demonstration against Chinese oppression of the Tibetan culture, Kyi hit the ground, her hand balled tightly into a fist above her head.
This latest act of self-immolation comes in a long line of others committed in order to bring attention to the ever tightening grasp on the Tibetan nation by the government of China. In Kyi’s case, it was the recent change to the language of instruction at the Maqu County Tibetan Middle School (which replaced the Tibetan language textbooks with Chinese counterparts) that moved Kyi to take her life in such a public fashion.
In the past year, 22 Tibetans have taken their lives in protest against Chinese policies concerning their nation—with several more non- fatal protests. This past Thursday, March 22, saw an end to a 30-day hunger strike led by Tibetans demanding that the United Nations (UN) assign a “fact-finding mission to Tibet [in order] to assess the situation of human rights and freedom there.
For years, the Tibetans have been overpowered by the Chinese, leading to increased unrest. Since the Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India in 1959, protests have sporadically broken out with Tibetans demanding that the Chinese grant them their freedoms. Like many Tibetan monks, one 22-year-old monk from the Qinghai Province keeps (banned) hidden pictures of the Dalai Lama on his cellphone and in his room in hopes of keeping with his faith and history. “They claim we are free to practice our religion but in fact they keep pulling the reins tighter and tighter so we can hardly breathe,” explained the young monk.
As the Chinese presence becomes more overbearing, many feel that this may only be the beginning of a Tibetan uprising. As more and more Tibetan youth begin to get involved in actively speaking out against the Chinese presence, a future of peace is looking even more uncertain. “I don’t want trouble with the authorities, but I can’t control their rage any longer,” explained a lama who wished to remain unidentified.
Dear President Jintao,
As we have seen, a people oppressed are a people of unrest—and with the countless demonstrations taking place around the world, it is clear that people are willing to stand up for what they believe. In the past year, 29 Tibetans have inflicted violence on themselves as an act of protest against what they feel is an ever dominant presence of Chinese policies to their culture.
Tsering Kyi, who killed herself earlier this month by setting herself on fire, is one name in a long list of individuals who have sacrificed themselves on behalf of the Tibetan people. These deaths need not be in vain, but rather illustrate the frustration common among the Tibetan people.
For these reasons, I ask that you reevaluate your position vis-à-vis the Tibetan people and grant them the freedoms that all peoples deserve.
[Your name will go here]