Dharanshala: - In April 2013, the local government in Dzoege (Ch: Ru-ergai) County in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (Sichuan Province) announced that it was taking every man, woman, and child hostage.
In a document recently smuggled out of Dzoege County dated 8 April 2013, the government announced that if there was a self-immolation it would punish the immolator's village, monastery, and family. Unlike previous policies that targeted people for "inciting" self-immolations or punished people for refusing to provide a government sanctioned explanation of the immolation, Dzoege is punishing people explicitly because of what somebody else did.
The document issued by Dzoege County government contains 16 articles and begins by targeting the self-immolator's family—the internationally recognized "natural and fundamental group unit of society" (ICESCR Art. 10; ICCPR Art. 23). Family members of self-immolators will be blacklisted (Art. 6) and subject to criminal sanctions, such as the deprivation of political rights (Art 2). They will also be deprived of employment with the government (Art. 1), excluded from all welfare benefits for 3 years (Art. 4), denied ownership of their houses and lands (Art.10), prevented from starting a business (Art. 10), and barred from traveling to Lhasa or to foreign countries (Art. 11).
"All of these measures violate human rights that the Chinese Constitution claims to protect (Art. 33 says that "The State respects and preserves human rights") and that Chinese officials have repeatedly claimed are most important. The local authorities in Dzoege make it clear that it has placed a sword over the families of would-be self-immolators," said the Dharamshala, India based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy. If a self-immolation occurs the sword will strike at the family members' ability to feed and clothe themselves. The family members will be unable to find work, permanent housing, start a business, borrow money, or receive welfare benefits. In its 2013 White Paper on Human Rights the PRC claimed that all other rights were impossible if the people are not fed and clothed. Thus, the attacks on the family of self-immolators are intended to be an assault on all of the family member's rights.
Next, the document targets the self-immolator's village or monastery. Both are deprived of any financial assistance, which effectively prohibits the creation of new business (Art. 5). Monasteries and villages must pay Yuan 10,000-500,000 (US$1,648 – US$82,414) deposit to ensure there are no more self-immolations, if there is self-immolation, the money is forfeited and a new deposit is required (Art. 7). In 2011, the average annual net income of rural areas in Sichuan Province was Yuan 6,129 (US$1,010). Villagers will be prevented from using farmland and grassland (Art. 9). Monasteries will have their financial records carefully scrutinized (Art. 15). Villagers, monks and nuns, officials, and monastery chant masters will be subjected to 'legal education' campaigns (Art. 13). These education campaigns effectively place monasteries under siege and require the monastery to rely on the government for electricity, water, and food.
The measures pronounced by the government in Dzoege County go beyond the widespread and systematic human rights violations that have become routine in Tibet. They turn the entire human rights system on its head. Rather than reading human rights documents as required elements to protect individuals, the government in Dzoege County appears to have used the documents as a checklist of how to coerce and threaten people. The Dzoege County government has announced it will take innocent people hostage en masse. If there is a self-immolation, the government will "strike hard" against the hostage and methodically take away their human rights and make life for the innocent survivors unbearable.
The Dzoege County document requires government officials, cadres and workers to advice people what will happen if there is a self-immolation (Art. 3). This warning is very simple: "If there is a self-immolation, the local government will attack your family, village, and monastery."
According to the Tibetan who smuggled the document out of Tibet, the Villagers' Committees in Dzoege County have been given the responsibility to publicize the harsh new measures to prevent self-immolation. The village officials have dutifully pasted the document on the walls of local government offices, police stations, shops, restaurants, etc. in Dzoege County. The source said self-immolation-related detention and arrest are common occurrences in Dzoege County. Many of those who remain detained in connection with self-immolation are too scared to speak out for fear of getting heavy punishment.
In some cases, people who are remotely connected to self-immolators are detained, questioned and tortured. "Family members, close relatives, friends and even mere acquaintances of Kunchok Sonam were detained soon after the monk's self-immolation and they are still in detention," the source said. Kunchok Sonam, 18, a monk at Tashi Thekchokling Monastery died of self-immolation protest in July 2013 in Dzoege County. It remains unknown whether his body was returned for proper cremation according to Tibetan Buddhist rituals