“We are destined to self-immolate”

Tashi Rabten's fatal self-immolation protest, December 2016
Tashi Rabten's fatal self-immolation protest, December 2016

13th December 2016

Note left by Tashi Rabten explains his reasons for his fatal self-immolation

A note written by Tashi Rabten, who last Thursday carried out a fatal self-immolation protest in Tibet, has emerged, explaining the reasons for his protest.

In the letter, written the day of his death, Tashi Rabtens wrote that Tibetans are “destined to self-immolate in protest for being kept apart from our own faith and nation.” He looks back at the history of the occupation of Tibet and stresses the peaceful nature of the Tibetan resistance. He contrasts it with the violent acts carried out under the Chinese occupation.

"We Tibetans are not scared of death"

One of the issues that Tashi Rabten dwells on is the destruction of Tibet's monasteries. He writes of how tanks and earth diggers are used to demolish monasteries and living quarters. This destruction is part of a wider attack on religion in Tibet that has also seen monks and nuns being beaten, abused and shot, and relics being looted.

He compares the destruction caused to Tibet by China with the crimes committed in China during World War II by occupying Japanese troops. In making the comparison, he references a policy of scorched earth by the Imperial Japanese army that is known in Chinese history as the 'Three Alls Policy'. It has been summarised as "kill all, burn all, loot all".

Tashi Rabten concludes his letter with a defiant tone, stating:

"I hope you will not think that I am joking. I am serious. What I wish to make people know is that we Tibetans are not scared of death, but in order to solve the issue peacefully, I was left with the only choice of self-immolating to warn people. "

He ends by expressing his desire to see Tibetans living "like genuine people on our own land." That afternoon, he set himself alight on a street in Machu County and later died from his wounds.

The text of Tashi Rabten's letter

Tashi Rabten's letter was written in Chinese and appears to have been drafted with the help of a friend, known only by their pseudonym ‘Fire Bird’. The full, translated text of the letter is below:

 

I am Tibetan, therefore, I am not Chinese. As a Tibetan holding a Chinese passport, I want to shout out for the human rights and democracy of 1.3 billion people. Since I am a true Tibetan, I should even more shout out for us Tibetans, for our nation and freedom.

Today, I am going to go far away from this world, but I believe I may come closer to the one we Tibetans have faith in. We are destined to follow such a path to search for and retrieve what we have already lost, and what is further and further away from us: our own Tibetan homeland. We are destined to self-immolate in protest for being kept apart from our own faith and nation.

We want to follow our Rinpoche. We only choose a peaceful approach to solve the Tibet-China issue. For us Tibetans, what we absolutely don't want or wish for is a massacre such as the one that was carried out in 1958 by the Chinese troops, or the inhumane invasion of that time.

Similarly, we also don’t want to be accused of “beating, smashing and robbing”, as we were in 2008.

Except for the Han people in inland China, almost no one in the whole world believes that Tibetans “beat, smash and rob.”

Most Han people in China have been brainwashed, and this is an ongoing process since the establishment of the People's Republic of China. They are singing the ''Communist national anthem,'' holding the ''great leader'' in their hearts, and working hard for the ''Four Modernisations'' of China. Chinese people are having such thoughts for now and will be holding onto them.

In the year 2008, who really carried out ''Beating, smashing and robbing'' was no other than the armed forces and army sent by the Chinese government; in the whole of Tibet, they were the ones ''beating – smashing – robbing – killing''.

In that year, Chinese people criticised the Japanese ''Three Alls Policy'*, maybe this is an issue without foundation, maybe that sort of tragedy really happened, I can’t really say. In reality, being a Tibetan, between me and the Japanese people there is no historical enmity. I like Japanese people, I respect Japanese people.

However, the Chinese army in the whole of Tibet, and especially in each and every monastery, they really carried out this sort of policy.

They ruthlessly beat us Tibetans, beat our Tibetan monks. They destroy the statues of deities in the Tibetan monasteries. They loot the historical relics. They shoot our Tibetan nuns, monks and young students.

They also killed many people who were on their way to Lhasa on pilgrimage.

The 1958 policy of burning monasteries in Tibetan areas has nowadays been replaced by tanks and earth diggers.

In recent years, many monasteries and monks’ residential quarters have been destroyed with tanks and earth diggers by armed police and army troops sent by the Chinese government. 

In conclusion, I have sent my message to you. I hope you will not think that I am joking. I am serious. What I wish to make people know is that we Tibetans are not scared of death, but in order to solve the issue peacefully, I was left with the only choice of self-immolating to warn people. What is necessary for Tibetan people is other people's blessing and show of concern. We should be able to live like genuine people on our own land. Long live Tibetans! Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama!

Machu, 8 December, 2016

Fire Bird

Take action

Freedom of religion is under attack in Tibet, and among the institutions being targeted is Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, from where at least 4,500 Tibetans have been forced to leave this year and where buildings and homes have been reduced to rubble. Several leaders around the world have made statements or raised Larung Gar with China, but we need more pressure. Contact your government, and China, today.