A total of 34 Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, are reported to have attempted to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire in China's Tibetan-inhabited areas since the start of 2011 in protest at Chinese rule.
Many of the protesters -- who criticize Beijing for what they see as repression of their culture -- have reportedly died from severe burns. Beijing has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of inciting the self-immolations in a bid to split the vast Himalayan region from the rest of the nation, a charge he denies. "Recently things become very, very difficult but our stand -- no change," the Dalai Lama told the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates yesterday.
"Independence, complete independence is unrealistic -- out of (the) question," the Dalai Lama said, saying his non-violent "Middle Way" of seeking change from Beijing still has the support of 90 per cent of Tibetans. "So we can continue," he said in a press conference at the conclusion of the summit. Tibet's leadership-in-exile in India remains committed to "meaningful talk" with the Chinese government in order to establish "meaningful autonomy" for the Tibetan minority, he said. The latest self-immolations by a pair of young Tibetan men occurred last week in the prefecture of Aba in a rugged area of Sichuan province, overseas Tibetan rights groups said.
China has imposed tight security to contain simmering discontent in Tibetan regions since 2008, when deadly rioting against Chinese rule broke out in Tibet's capital Lhasa and spread to neighboring Tibetan-inhabited regions. Many Tibetans in China complain of religious repression and a gradual erosion of their culture blamed on a growing influx of majority Han Chinese to their homeland. China denies any repression and says it has improved the lives of Tibetans with investment in infrastructure, schools and housing and by spurring economic growth.