A Chinese and Tibetan-language document obtained and published by Radio Free Asia reveals how the Chinese Government is 'striking hard' against the families, relatives, villages and monasteries of self-immolating Tibetan protesters. The document was issued as a government notice in Zoigê County, in Sichuan Province's Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, on 8 April 2013.

Since February 2009, over 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese Government's policies on the plateau. Beijing blames the 'Dalai Lama clique' for inciting the acts.

Among the sixteen provisions of the document are the following:

  • The immediate relatives of self-immolators in the county will not be approved for permission to leave China or travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region for three years.
  • The direct relatives (mother, father, spouse, children and siblings) of self-immolators will be ineligible to apply for national civil servant examinations or work for the state in any enterprise, service or military capacity. 
  • The temple of a village or suburb in which an act self-immolation occurs will be subject to an anti-immolation bond of between ten and 500,000 Renminbi. If another act of self-immolation is not committed within two years, the deposit will be returned in full. If otherwise, the bond will be forfeited and a second will be applied.
  • The sermonising activities of monks at monasteries associated with the self-immolations will be severely restricted.
  • All national investment projects in the village (or suburb) and temple of the self-immolator will be cancelled or suspended, and all private capital and social investment projects in the village (or suburb) will be halted.

Those monitoring the situation in Tibet have long held that the families and communities of self-immolators were being punished for the acts.  In January 2013, a monk was handed a suspended death sentence for inciting eight people set themselves ablaze.

A similar notification to the one RFA has published was obtained by the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala in 2012. It was issued by Chinese authorities in Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province and carries comparable punishments for self-immolators’ families and communities. Unlike the Sichuan document, however, the Qinghai document did not describe its provisions as part of a 'strike hard campaign'. The new document thus hints at a broader policy, and is the first evidence of punishments for the families and communities of self-immolators outside Qinghai.

The measures seem to be working. Only seven self-immolations have taken place since July 2013, compared to 86 in 2012.

But the two self-immolations so far this year have both occurred in areas associated with the tough punishments on families and communities. On 5 February Phakmo Sambup, 29, set himself alight in Malho. He died at the scene. Last Thursday, Lobsang Dorjee attempted to self-immolate during a Tibetan New Year prayer festival in Ngawa Prefecture, Sichuan. It's the same prefecture the RFA document originated from.

Photo by Flickr user wowitsstephen.