“Respect life, love living” reads one red banner outside a college campus, joining the perennial calls for “national unity” and “harmonious society.” In colleges throughout ethnic Tibetan areas, officials give lectures to warn students against self-immolation and to blame the Dalai Lama for causing trouble.
The Chinese government says it protects Tibetan culture, citing projects such as the $48 million renovation of Labrang, one of the key monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism, two hours’ drive from Bora. The surrounding town, Sangchu, is fast expanding, but the growth appears mostly in its Han Chinese half, not the traditional, one-story Tibetan quarters.
“Religion is a paradox in China, as the regime both suppresses it severely and sponsors it,” said Michael Davis, an American expert on Tibet at the University of Hong Kong.
Chinese officials struggle to understand Tibetan frustration, Davis said.
Rising self-awareness among Tibetans combines with Chinese repression to spark resentment and resistance, Davis said. Self-immolations will continue as long as Tibetans feel they lack other avenues to express grievances, such as anger at language policies aimed at assimilating Tibetans, he added.
“They think’you ungrateful people, you’re biting the hands that feed you,’ but the money that has poured into Tibetan regions is often viewed as benefiting the Chinese, not the Tibetans,” he said.
(Calum MacLeod writes for USA Today.)
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