Legal action underway against self-immolations

CCTV, Dec 12, 2012

Beijing, China -- In order to combat the growing number of self-immolations in Tibetan communities across China, the country’s top court and public security authorities have now issued a directive that allows for criminal charges, including intentional homicide, to be filed against people who organize, plot or incite others to commit such suicidal acts.

CCTV reporter Li Qiuyuan spoke with one legal expert based in Beijing to find out more about the legal actions against self-immolations.

Tibetan Buddhism has long been known for its love and respect for life, but the recent series of self-immolations in Tibetan communities tells a different story.

Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk and his nephew from an ethnic Tibetan area in southwest China’s Sichuan province, were arrested for encouraging eight people to set themselves on fire, three of whom died.

Police reported the two have confessed to encouraging and publicizing the protests under orders from their exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his followers.

Dr. Liu Renwen, a legal expert on criminal law, says they could be charged with "intentional homicide", and face 10 years plus in prison.

Liu Renwen, Director of Department of Criminal Law, CASS, said,“China’s supreme court, top prosecution body and police have jointly issued the legal opinion, stating that organising, directing, and plotting as well as actively participating in inciting others to carry out self-immolations, is a criminal act that intentionally deprives another of his or her life. And people who commit such acts should be held liable for "intentional homicide" according to Article 232 of Criminal Law of People’s Republic of China. And self-immolators who intend to harm others, according to Article 114 of Criminal Law, should be held liable for "endangering public security"."

Self-immolations have never occurred in Tibetan history until 2009. Many Tibetan scholars believe the extreme act was deliberately introduced to Tibet from foreign countries with political motives.
Police reported most of those who undertook self-immolations were young people- those in their teens or early twenties.

"I agree with the government’s legal opinion of taking tougher measures against self-immolations. I believe that most Tibetan people will also agree with this legal opinion because any increase in self-immolation cases will only do this region harm.” Liu said.
Dr. Liu hopes the new directive will help bring down the tragic and violent practise.

Further details regarding the legal process can be expected when the case of plotting self-immolations goes to court.