Fanning the flames

By Yan Shuang in Aba Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-27 23:53:00

Two Tibetans stood trial Saturday for intentional murder after they confessed to having incited a series of self-immolations in Tibetan-inhabited Aba prefecture of Sichuan Province, under instructions from the Dalai Lama clique.

The court failed to reach a verdict on the case of Lorang Konchok and his nephew Lorang Tsering, who had goaded eight people, three of whom died, to immolate themselves since 2009.

They said they had been acting on the instructions of a monk in India who is part of the Dalai Lama group that attempts to separate the Tibet Autonomous Region from China.

Escorted by police, 41-year-old Lorang Konchok, a monk at the Kirti Monastery in Aba, walked into court calmly with a smile on his face, while Lorang Tsering, his accomplice, seemed nervous in front of 150 people in the courtroom when answering questions from prosecutors.

"I told them self-immolation is a heroic deed for the greater cause of the independence of Tibet, and I would pass their information to India for publicity so that their names and families would be remembered and honored," said Lorang Konchok.

Foreign influences

He said Samtan, 31, a former monk at the Kirti Monastery and now a media liaison member of the India-based organization "Tibetan Independence," established by the Dalai Lama clique, had contacted him after a Kirti monk named Tapey self-immolated in February 2009. Samtan told him to conduct such instigations to "make trouble with the Communist Party of China," he said.

Killing is a taboo in Buddhism but Lorang Konchok claimed self-immolation is not against Buddhist doctrine, and that the Dalai Lama could perform a religious session for those who died in such circumstances to lift their sins.

Lorang Konchok said he reads a lot and has obtained a great deal of knowledge, but he said he did not  believe that inciting others to practice self-immolation was against the law. He persuaded his nephew Lorang Tsering to help find willing self-immolators, while he took photos, wrote stories and publicized their actions in India-based websites with the help of Samtan.

The eight people involved were all aged between 19 to 29, with three dead after immolation.

Two people fled the county after abandoning the idea for fear of facing threats from Lorang Konchok, and did not return until the two suspects were arrested in mid-August last year.

Lorang Konchok even tried to convince another nephew of his, 24-year-old Lorang Tashi, to immolate himself but failed.

"I felt uncomfortable at the idea of my younger brother burning," said Lorang Tsering, "and I regretted what I had done."

Speaking of whether he would be bold enough to immolate himself, Lorang Konchok said, "No, I'll never do that. Burning must be painful."

Xiong Huanying, a judge with the Intermediate People's Court of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, told the Global Times it is the first self-immolation case in Aba for which authorities obtained sufficient evidence showing it had been instructed by "forces from abroad."

"Lorang Konchok had been using his position as a senior monk to stir up such ideas," said Xiong. Being one of the most educated monks in Kirti Monastery, Lorang Konchok gained a higher Buddhism degree, equal to a doctorate, said Xiong, and that since many youngsters looked up to him, they were easily misled.

Plea for mercy

Both Lorang Konchok and Lorang Tsering refused to defend themselves in court. Their attorneys, assigned by the local legal assistance center with approval from the suspects, appealed to court to lessen the punishments since the defendants had confessed and cooperated with authorities.

"I felt heartbroken when seeing Tsering smiling at the audience," said Lorang Tsering's elder brother who attended the trial. He told the Global Times that Lorang Konchok was sent to the monastery at the age of 16, and had been living there ever since.

The Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture has seen some 30 immolations since 2009, said procurator Zou Gangjun. Scheduled on January 21, the trial was put off for five days at short notice. There have been new immolation cases recently in Aba and local authorities are looking into their cause before releasing information to the public, he said. The other monk, Samtan, will be arrested once he is located by police, he said.

Huang Xiaorong, 46, a Tibetan farmer who attended the trial, from Maerkang, the capital of Aba prefecture, told the Global Times that local residents were furious at the immolations.

"Self-immolation is against our doctrine. I can never imagine anyone doing that harm to others," she said.

"Tibetans have the tradition of sending kids to monasteries at an early age, and many of them grow up disconnected to the outside world, which could make them more easily misled by instigators," said Lian Xiangmin, a research fellow at the China Tibetology Research Center. China's Tibetan-inhabited areas usually don't have sufficient government funding for education and social services, he said.

There are more cases of self-immolation in Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan because there is a greater influence from overseas there and practices in Tibet have become more regulated, he noted.

Many of the self-immolating monks belong to the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the same as the Dalai Lama, and share the Dalai Lama's religious beliefs, Lian said. Some immolators were not monks at all, but they could be influenced and motivated to do so by those who publicize the merits of self-immolation and spontaneously practice such cruelty on themselves, Lian told the Global Times.

People that incite and threaten people to self-immolate or those who assist them doing so will be charged with intentional murder, according to a guideline jointly issued by the Supreme People's Court, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

Lorang Konckok takes the stand on Saturday during the trial. Photo: Wei Yao
Lorang Konchok takes the stand on Saturday during the trial. Photo: Wei Yao

Audiences attend the trial of Lorang Konchok and Lorang Tsering at the Intermediate People's Court of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture on Saturday. Photo: Wei Yao
Audiences attend the trial of Lorang Konchok and Lorang Tsering at the Intermediate People's Court of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture on Saturday. Photo: Wei Yao

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