BEIJING — Chinese police officials have detained a Tibetan monk and his nephew and accused them of playing a role in a series of self-immolations, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. The move appeared to be part of a campaign to prosecute Tibetans who are accused of aiding others who set fire to themselves in protest of Chinese rule.
The police said the monk who was detained — Lorang Konchok, 40, of the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province — was connected with eight self-immolations, Xinhua reported Sunday.
The two men were apparently detained in August; it was unclear why Xinhua did not report on them until now.
The Kirti Monastery, in the town of Ngaba, has been central to the wave of self-immolations that began in Tibetan areas in February 2009, when a young monk from Kirti named Tapey set himself on fire in the center of Ngaba. Nearly 100 people in Tibetan regions of China have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule, including three over the weekend, according to Tibetan exile groups.
The Xinhua report said that Lorang Konchok and his nephew, Lorang Tsering, 31, were suspected by the police of passing on information about the identities and backgrounds of Tibetans who have self-immolated to exiles in India, where a Tibetan government-in-exile is based and where the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, lives. Some of the information and photos were sent using a cellphone, the report said,
Xinhua said Lorang Konchok became involved after being contacted by a “Tibetan independence organization” tied to the Dalai Lama after Tapey’s self-immolation in 2009.
Referring to the monk and his nephew, the Xinhua report said that “the two men had persuaded several people to attempt self-immolation, who abandoned the idea after their families, local government officials and police officers intervened.”
The detention of the two men appeared to be part of a concentrated effort to rein in the self-immolations, which have gathered pace in recent months; in November they occurred nearly every day.
An editorial published Dec. 3 in a newspaper in a Tibetan area of Gansu province said China’s supreme court, prosecution agency and Ministry of Public Security had issued “guidelines” that said “the act of self-immolation by Tibetans is a crime.” The guidelines said that assisting or encouraging self-immolations was considered intentional homicide, and that those who committed self-immolation were also criminals.