Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Exiled Tibetans shout slogans during a protest in solidarity with Tibetans who have self-immolated in Dharmsala, India, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Three teenage monks and a Tibetan woman set fire to themselves to protest Chinese rule on the eve of a pivotal Communist Party congress, activists reported Thursday, in what they said were the most such protests in a single day.

Ashwini Bhatia/AP

Hours before the opening of this week's key Communist Party meeting in Beijing, three teenage monks walked into the streets of a tiny monastery town on the Tibetan plateau, shouted their support for Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama, and lit themselves ablaze. The youngest of the three, a 15-year-old boy known only as Dorjee, died at the scene.

Such desperate acts by Tibetans protesting against Chinese rule have become unsettlingly common over the past three years and appear to have spiked this week as the Communist Party gathers to pick its new leadership.

The week-long meeting that began Thursday will end with the introduction of the Communist Party's new leadership lineup, leading up to the event, there has been a contest between traditional and reformist factions that will signal the direction of the world's rising superpower. The process is opaque and only small parts of the congress are open to reporters.

Story continues below advertisement

The impression of a stable power transition has been tarnished somewhat by the unravelling situation in the country's remote Tibetan areas.

The paramilitary People's Armed Police has been deployed to many Tibetan towns, often escorted by officers carrying fire extinguishers in case of more self-immolations. Orange-suited firemen also have been deployed to Beijing's Tiananmen Square, even though the plaza is closed to the public for the duration of the Communist Party congress in the adjacent Great Hall of the People. Tibetan delegates at the gathering met here Friday to hail the progress being made in raising living standards, while dismissing the self-immolations as the acts of a foreign-influenced minority.

The grisly unrest is at odds with optimism expressed by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, who has said he believes the new generation of Chinese leaders – to be headed by current Vice-President Xi Jinping – will be "more lenient" in how it deals with the question of Tibet. Mr. Xi is set to become general secretary of the Communist Party, China's most powerful post, after the Beijing congress ends on Wednesday.

The Dalai Lama's hope stems from a wristwatch he gave to Mr. Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, during a meeting in the 1950s, before the Dalai Lama fled into exile. The elder Mr. Xi, a famous Communist guerrilla who rose to become vice-premier of the People's Republic, was apparently spotted wearing the watch decades later, long after it became dangerous for a Chinese official to show any sign of friendship toward the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama called Xi Zhongxun "very friendly" and "comparatively more open-minded" in a recent interview with the Reuters news service, and said he had already received visitors representing the new Chinese leadership. That could suggest Beijing is interested in restarting negotiations, stalled since January, 2010, with the exiled Tibetan leadership.

But hopelessness remains more evident than optimism on the Tibetan plateau. Two more self-immolations were reported Wednesday in Tibetan areas, followed by another – this time by a 23-year-old mother of one – on Thursday.

Several thousand residents of Rebkong, the young woman's village in Qinghai province, briefly took to the streets Friday. It marked one of the largest anti-government gatherings since the plateau was consumed by violent riots in early 2008. There were reports Friday of security forces pouring into the area. "We have grave concerns for the safety of the people of Rebkong County," Stephanie Brigden, director of Free Tibet a London-based lobby group, said in a statement. "As congress opens, China must be held accountable for its actions in Tibet."

Story continues below advertisement

The Dalai Lama, who escaped in 1959 as the People's Liberation Army marched toward Lhasa, has called for a peaceful struggle to gain greater autonomy and religious freedom for Tibet. Official Beijing, however, brands him a separatist and blames him for the sporadic outbreaks of violence on the plateau, including the 68 self-immolations in Tibetan areas of China since 2009. Fifty-five people have died.

The Dalai Lama has said he doesn't encourage the acts of suicide, but has also praised the young monks for their courage.

There are no signs of a changing Tibet policy so far at the party congress in Beijing. The 28 Communists who make up the Tibet Autonomous Region's delegation spent Friday reviewing statistics backing their argument that life is improving on the plateau, despite the swelling unrest.

There's more social housing now than a decade ago and the public education system has been expanded, said Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region. "We are supporting the central government with all our hearts. We spontaneously follow the Communist Party of China, and we have the confidence to build a better Tibet," he told Tibetan delegates, some of whom wore brightly coloured traditional garb that stuck out among the business suits and military uniforms of the other attendees.

His deputy, Lobsang Gyaincain, blamed the Dalai Lama for the ongoing unrest. "The external Tibetan forces and the Dalai clique are sacrificing other people's lives to attain their secret political motives," he said.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies