China to Press Murder Charges for Inciting Tibet Immolations
China will charge anyone caught aiding or inciting Tibetan self-immolations with murder, state press said Wednesday, after more than 90 Tibetans set themselves alight in protest at Beijing's rule.
A joint legal opinion issued by China's supreme court, top prosecution body and police said the charge of "intentional murder" should apply to anyone urging Tibetans to set themselves alight, the state-run Gannan Daily reported.
Beijing regularly accuses the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, of inciting the burnings. He said last month that Beijing was more interested in criticizing him than finding the reasons for the self-immolations.
The ruling comes alongside an already intense security crackdown in Tibetan-inhabited regions and could implicate Tibetan monks, family members of anti-China protesters, or sympathizers.
More than 90 Tibetans have set themselves alight since 2009 in protest at China's rule of the Tibetan plateau, with the incidents becoming more frequent this year and nearly 30 happening in November.
"The recent self immolations in Tibean areas are mutually linked to hostile forces in and out of China, they are plotted, organised and incited by separatist nations and are seriously odious incidents aimed at destroying ethnic unity (and) fomenting social disorder," the paper said.
"The legal opinion clearly points out that those criminals behind the scenes who plan, incite, aide, abet... and help those perpetrating self immolations will be investigated for criminal liability in the crime of intentional murder."
The Gannan Daily is the local government-run paper in Gannan prefecture, part of northwest China's Gansu province, where many of the November burnings took place.
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of repressing their religious freedom and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han Chinese ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
China insists that Tibetans are enjoying rising living standards and religious freedom in accordance with the law.
In Tokyo last month, the Dalai Lama said: "The Chinese government should investigate the cause. China does not look into it seriously and tries to end (the incidents) only by criticizing me," according to a Kyodo News report in Japanese.
Last week, advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet said in London that a security crackdown aimed at ending the self-immolations was fueling the protests.