BEIJING – China accused the Dalai Lama on Wednesday of inciting a wave of self-immolations among Tibetans that are widely seen as desperate protests against Chinese rule in the Himalayan region.
Similar accusations have been denied in the past, and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has called the deaths sad and ineffective in changing Chinese policy.
A report issued Wednesday by the Cabinet's State Council Information Office said Chinese police investigations showed such incidents are being "manipulated and instigated" by the Dalai Lama and his supporters.
The report said a strategy to encourage Tibetans to burn themselves to death emerged after the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile based in India recommitted itself to non-violence in 2011.
It cited statements from exile groups that it said encouraged such acts as worthy Buddhist sacrifices and commemorated the victims as martyrs. It also said a monastic arm of the exile government coordinated with monasteries inside China to "remotely plan self-immolations."
"To commit an act of self-violence in a public place is inherently violent behavior whose aim is to create an atmosphere of terror and transmit psychological horror," the report said.
It gave no figures for the number of self-immolations. Independent groups say 113 men and 24 women have set themselves on fire since March 2011 and most have died of their burns.
In the latest incident, 47-year-old nun Yeshi Khando set herself on fire last week near a police station in a Tibetan part of Sichuan province while shouting slogans including "Tibet needs freedom," overseas pro-Tibetan groups reported.
Tibetan areas in China are closed to foreign journalists and such incidents are virtually impossible to independently verify.
Tibetan monks and nuns are among the most active opponents of Chinese rule in the region and face some of the harshest restrictions on their activities. Tibet Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo demanded last week that Buddhist monasteries display the national flag as part of efforts to shore up government control.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries, although many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time. The Dalai Lama fled to India during an aborted uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, eight years after Communist troops occupied Tibet.