By Tendar Tsering
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Carnegie Foundation in Washington after the release of the State Department's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, July 30, 2012. (Photo/AFP)
DHARAMSHALA, July 31: The United States on Monday blamed the Chinese government for the fiery wave of self-immolations in Tibet in an annual report on religious freedom.
“Official interference in the practice of these religious traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011," the US State Department said in its annual International Religious Freedom Report.
The report noted that in China "there was a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government's respect for and protection of religious freedom.”
This included "increased restrictions on religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries."
“Government and CCP control over religious practice and the day-to-day management of monasteries and other religious institutions tightened, particularly at Kirti Monastery, which saw the highest concentration of self-immolations.”
China and North Korea, where the report noted that religious freedom does not exist in any form, along with Myanmar are among eight nations designated as "countries of particular concern" for failing to accept religious rights.
“More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedom,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the release of the report.
“New technologies have given repressive governments additional tools for cracking down on religious expression,” Clinton said. “Members of faith communities that have long been under pressure report that the pressure is rising.”
However, Beijing immediately hit back saying that the US report was “full of prejudice, arrogance and ignorance.”
According to the Dharamshala based Central Tibetan Administration, 45 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, demanding freedom in Tibet and the return of the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.
Speaking on the self-immolations, Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan writer and independence activist told Phayul that the fiery sacrifices were a protest against the Chinese colonial rule over Tibet.
“If the Tibetan monks in Tibet are burning themselves alive for religious freedom, then they can come to India and have religious freedom. But they are lighting themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese colonial occupation of Tibet,” Norbu said in a recent interview with Phayul.