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Tibetans in exile will go into a special session this month to discuss the burning issue of self-immolations by a growing number of Buddhist activists in Tibet.

The first session was held here in November 2008 after the riots that erupted in Lhasa had spread to other areas of western China.

At that time, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which is based in this pretty Himalayan hill town in northern India, said more than 200 people were killed and over 1,200 injured in the subsequent Chinese crackdown.

The second general meeting of Tibetans, to be presided over by prime minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay, would be held from Sep 25 to discuss ways and means to address the current urgent and critical situation in Tibet, said Tashi, secretary of the CTA’s department of information and international relations.

More than 350 delegates comprising members and former members of the Tibetan cabinet and parliament, heads of schools of Buddhism and NGOs and volunteers from across the globe, especially Nepal, Bhutan and the US, as also from Europe, will take part in the four-day congregation, Tashi told IANS.

Fifty-one people have reportedly killed themselves since 2009 to protest against Beijing’s “repressive policies” and demand the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to his homeland.

“The session aims to urge countries, and particularly global human rights organisations, to press the Chinese government to stop repressive activities and respect the aspirations of the people of Tibet,” CTA media cell in-charge Lobsang Choedak said.

He said the Chinese have intensified the security clampdown, amounting to stifling of the Tibetan people’s religious freedom and human rights.

The Nobel Peace laureate has already blamed Beijing for igniting self-immolation protests in Tibet, saying the issue is “very political”.

“There are some who feel that the self-immolations have occurred all of a sudden. It is not so and is directly related to more than two decades of policies by local Chinese authorities,” said CTA’s website quoting the Dalai Lama, known for wearing his trademark maroon robes.

On resolving the issue with China, prime minister Sangay told IANS: “We are committed to the middle-way approach and the dialogue process to resolve the Tibet issue on the basis of mutual benefit. The Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations has met twice this year and will meet again in December to continue the dialogue process with the new Chinese leadership.”

“To understand the self-immolations, it is crucial to know that no space exists in Tibet for freedom of speech and other conventional forms of protest. A participant in a simple demonstration could face arrest, torture and even death. These conditions help explain the terribly high number of self-immolations in Tibet,” the CTA said in a statement Sep 2, the 52nd anniversary of Tibetan democracy.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet along with many of his supporters and took refuge in India when Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa in 1959.

Some 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in what is now known as the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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