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"Spark" for Tibetan Self-immolation Unwilling to Do the Same
2013/01/09
 

ABA, Sichuan, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Lorang Konchok smiled and greeted a police officer he met in a detention house in Aba, a Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

It's hard to imagine that such a humble monk is a murderer.

Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk at the Kirti Monastery in Aba, has convinced eight people to set themselves on fire, three of whom died, since 2009, according to a police statement.

He even convinced his nephew Lorang Tashi, 24, to immolate himself. A tragedy was avoided, as Lorang Tashi's older brother Lorang Tsering, 31, also Lorang Konchok's accomplice, nixed the plan.

Lorang Konchok has spoken about the benefits of self-immolation to many youngsters, but has never thought of taking the bold action himself.

"I don't want to be the hero," he said. "I'm afraid of death. Burning is painful."

EVIL SPIRAL

Tsenam, 19, a former monk at a village temple in Aba, was the first victim. He often borrowed classical Buddhism texts from Lorang Konchok when he studied at the Aba Kirti Monastery in 2011, when Lorang Konchok spoke to him about the benefits of self-immolation and "Tibet independence."

On March 26 this year, when Tsenam expressed a desire to self-immolate, Lorang Konchok claimed a photo of Tsenam in order to publicize his "heroic deeds." Two days later, Tsenam burned himself to death.

Jokba, 19, a herdsman from Aba, ended his life the same way on Aug. 10.

The next day, pro-Tibet independence websites reported on the incidents, referring to the deaths as a protest.

Lorang Konchok then confessed to police that he acted on the instructions of the Dalai clique.

Samtan, 31, a former monk from the Kirti Monastery in Aba and now the majordomo of another Kirti Monastery based in India, had the same master as Lorang Konchok. Samtan, as well as a man named Doran, are members of a media liaison team -- a "Tibet independence" organization established by the Dalai clique that contacted Lorang Konchok after a Kirti Monastery monk named Tapey self-immolated in February 2009.

At the request of the media liaison team, Lorang Konchok took advantage of his position and influence in the monastery and encouraged others to self-immolate, telling local monks and followers that self-immolation was not against Buddhist doctrines and that those who did it were "heroes."

A devout follower of the 14th Dalai Lama, Lorang Konchok collected the names of over 10 self-immolation executors and made a "hero list."

Lorang Konchok also promised to spread the self-immolators' deeds in foreign media so that they and their families would be acknowledged and honored.

POLITICAL AMBITION UNDER THE GUISE OF "NON-VIOLENCE"

Not satisfied with the effects of secessionist activities in the past, the Dalai clique has adopted planning and organizing self-immolations as new strategies.

The Second Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People, organized by the "Tibetan government-in-exile" in Dharamsala, India, in September, ranked self-immolation as the highest form of non-violent action.

"A special memorial hall should be built with displays of the pictures and the personal stories of each such martyr," according to the meeting's action plan and resolution.

"To commemorate the blood sacrifices made by Tibetan men and women in and outside Tibet, a day should be finalized for observing Martyr's Day each year," it said.

Believed by his devotees to be the reincarnation of a long line of tulkus who are considered to be manifestations of the bodhisattva, the Dalai Lama did not stop people from self-immolating, an act that is both inhumane and against Buddhist doctrines.

Instead, he has taken part in various prayer and memorial services for the self-immolators, demonstrating his passive approval of the deadly act.

"I am quite certain that those who sacrificed their lives with sincere motivation, for Buddha dharma and for the well-being of the people, from the Buddhist or religious view points, is positive," the Dalai Lama said in an interview with NBC in October.

Buddhism is mercy, with ahimsa, the philosophy of revering all life and not harming any living thing, as a fundamental rule. The instigators of the self-immolations have damaged believers' trust in Tibetan Buddhism.

On March 16, 2011, Phuntsog, 17, a former Kirti Monastery monk, self-immolated in downtown Aba County. Instead of trying to save the young man, Drongdru, Phuntsog's uncle, tried to keep his nephew's burned body from police.

Drongdru moved Phuntsog's body from the Kirti Monastery to a herdsman's house and then to a burial platform to help him complete his "heroic" mission.

When police found Phuntsog the next day, medical treatment was no longer an option. He died shortly after being found.

Most of the self-immolators are around 20 years old. The Dalai clique has taken advantage of their innocence and ignorance, said Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic policy expert with Minzu University of China.

The Dalai Lama uses his religious aura to allow young people to play toward his political ambitions, which is inhumane and sacrilegious, Xiong said.

"Samtan and Doran asked me to collect and send them information on the self-immolation practitioners, so they could publicize it overseas," said Lorang Konchok. "Otherwise, I would not do it."

FAMILY SHATTERED BY SELF-IMMOLATION

"Life is better than before, but he is gone. Every dinner I am heart broken, because I miss him," said Palho, father of the 19-year-old Jokba.

"I don't know if he is a hero. For me, my heart is broken," Palho said, unable to hold back his tears.

"I am already 60 years old. I thought I could depend on him for the rest of my life," he said of his youngest son.

Jokba had no schooling. He had gone to the mountains with his father to forage for herbs since he was six years old. He got along well with his peers, and he was not a bad guy, Palho said.

Jokba told Lorang Tsering in March this year that he was interested in self-immolation and asked him if he could help to send his personal information overseas. Lorang Tsering said his uncle, Lorang Konchok, could help.

On Aug. 9, Lorang Tsering encouraged Jokba to carry out the self-immolation sooner. He called his uncle in Jokba's presence, asking Lorang Konchok to help bring attention to Jokba overseas.

On the same afternoon, Jokba met Lorang Konchok in the Kirti Monastery. Lorang Konchok promised he could spread propaganda overseas. He wrote down Jokba's personal information, family background and took photos of Jokba with his cell phone.

Jokba burned himself to death the next day.

His father never knew his plan of self-immolation. "I hate the instigators," said Palho.

Khobi also could not figure out how his grandson Gepal could kill himself in such a cruel way on March 10.

"Nobody wants their sons to self-immolate. I don't know what problems they have," said Khobi.

"His parents have not made troubles for him. They have good clothing and food, how could they end their lives?" he added.

Gepal, 17, was greatly affected by some monks in the Kirti Monastery who supported "Tibet independence." He kept photos of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Kirti Living Buddha and self-immolation practitioners on his cell phone.

He gradually developed the notion that would become a hero through self-immolation. Spurred on by his peers in the monastery, Gepal burned himself in a meadow in Kaxi Village in the town of Longzang.

Song Guangjun, director of the surgical department at Aba County People's Hospital, has received dozens of victims of self-immolation.

"They are all young boys, around 16 or 17," he said. "Their skin gets thinner and rots after being burned."

The patients are not willing to talk to doctors at first, but they talk more later, Song said. "If they say they feel nervous, that means they are thirsty and want to drink. They have a strong desire to survive."

"When they leave the hospital, they thank us," he said.

"We feel also pain as doctors. Our children are the same age as them." he said. "Their lives are ruined after being burned."

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