Chinese authorities have arrested 70 ethnic Tibetans in its continuing drive against self-immolation protests in which more than 90 have set themselves ablaze protesting against Beijing’s hardline rule.
Authorities said the arrests were made in northwest China’s Qinghai province and at least a dozen of those arrested over self-immolation cases in the Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
Last week eight Tibetans including a monk - given a suspended death sentence - were jailed for three to 12 years for their role in inciting self-immolations.
Rights groups have decried the arrests and convictions alleging that confessions were often extracted under duress.
In the latest arrests, Lyu Benqian, deputy chief of the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department, was quoted as having said that the “Dalai Lama clique masterminded and incited the self-immolations”. Lyu, also head of a special police team investigating the self-immolations said personal information, such as photos of the victims, were sent overseas to promote the self-immolations.
“Some of the victims were frustrated and pessimistic in life, and they wanted to earn respect by self-immolation,” Lyu was quoted by state-run Xinhua news agency as saying while analyzing the motive for the self-immolations.
“Meanwhile, a few individuals with a strong sense of extreme nationalism showed sympathy with the self-immolators and followed their example,” he said, adding that the “self-immolation cases were influenced by the separatism of the Dalai Lama clique, as the Dalai Lama has prayed for self-immolators and Tibetan separatists overseas flaunt them as heroes.”
Authorities said many of those who had set themselves on fire did so out of frustration.
In one case, according to Lyu, the father of a victim had even offered money to the Dalai Lama to chant Buddhist scriptures in her name.
“On November 15 last year, Tamzin Zhoima, a 23-year-old villager from another township in Tongren, set herself ablaze. On Nov. 22, her father Urglo contacted overseas people via domestic intermediators, planning to offer 25,000 Yuan (about 3,980 USD) for the Dalai Lama and Indian monks to chant Buddhist scriptures for his daughter,” Lyu said.
"Investigations showed that 8,000 Yuan was arranged to be given directly to the Dalai Lama and the rest to monks attending the ritual," said Lyu.
"The money has not been remitted, yet overseas people have advanced the fees for him. There has been hard evidence to prove that the Dalai Lama clique has both claimed lives and swindled people," he said.