Tibet Leader Urges No New Year Celebration Amid Activist Deaths

Tibetans should avoid celebrating their New Year next month and instead say prayers for the rising number of activists setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule, the Tibetan government-in-exile said, urging an end to the practice.

Three Tibetans have died so far this year after carrying out self-immolations, with a 26-year-old the most recent to die a few days ago, the Tibetan leadership said in a statement. That adds to 83 Tibetans who died after setting themselves ablaze last year, including 28 in November alone, according to the statement.

“I request my fellow Tibetans to not celebrate Losar with our usual festivities,” Lobsang Sangay, prime minister in the exiled administration, said in the statement referring to the region’s new year festival. “Instead, when this year’s holiday falls on February 11, I ask you to perform only the customary religious rituals like visiting temples and making offerings.”

Tibetans say China is attacking their culture, religion and environment with policies that have moved thousands of ethnic Han Chinese into Tibet in the name of economic development.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, has lived in northern India since fleeing in 1959, when China’s military took over the region. China accuses the Dalai Lama of waging a campaign for independence while the spiritual leader says he is seeking autonomy for Tibet.

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