The City Council of the City of Berkeley today unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the immeasurable sacrifice of Tibetan monks and nuns who have self-immolated in protest of Chinese political suppression. The resolution calls on the Obama Administration to insist that China immediately end excessive security measures on Tibetan monasteries and lay communities in the region, and allow members of the media and international independent fact-finding delegations to visit the affected Tibetan-inhabited areas in Western China and the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Representatives from the Tibetan Association of Northern California, the Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for a Free Tibet joined with commissioners from the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission and Berkeley activists Tuesday night to urge the council to to pass the resolution. “The self-immolations in Tibet have actually renewed hope and sparked a mass movement of Tibetans calling for freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, and we know this will not easily be extinguished” says Yangchen Chagzoetsang, a member of the Berkeley Tibetan community who spoke before the council, adding, “Tibetans are more dedicated than ever to making our voices heard and to resisting Chinese oppression”.
Since the first reported Tibetan self-immolation in February 2009, 17 Tibetans have self-immolated, 16 of them in the past year. The New York Times, citing findings by Human Rights Watch, reports a striking correlation between the immolations and sharp increases in Chinese security: “the increase in government spending on security has contributed to provocative policing techniques such as monastery blockades and the mass detentions of monks that have repeatedly contributed to local discontent and unrest.”
The resolution, the first of its kind in the country, states in part that “the City Council of the City of Berkeley, in affirmation of the shared belief in protest and civic engagement of the people of the City of Berkeley, and in recognition of the Berkeley Tibetan-American community, recognizes these acts of self-immolation as a reflection of the extremely repressive conditions to which the Tibetan people are subjected.” The resolution notes that “self-immolation has presented a critical means of political expression in atmospheres of severe political and social repression” citing the Arab Spring and anti-Vietnam War movement.
The City of Berkeley has a storied history of principled stands taken by City Council, including notable resolutions against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and against military recruiting in city schools.