HONG KONG — China has intensified its crackdown on Tibetan self-immolations, detaining 70 people during a sweep in ethnic Tibetan regions, state media reported.
Since 2009, almost 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire as a form of protest against Chinese rule in ethnically Tibetan areas. As a result, the Chinese government has begun jailing the people it believes to be responsible for inciting the immolations.
Additionally, members of foreign media and the Dalai Lama himself have been accused of encouraging the protests. A new documentary released by Chinese State broadcaster CCTV alleges that US-funded outlet Voice of America is responsible for inciting self-immolations, reports have said.
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Hong Kong Ben Carlson said the situation with Tibet is only going from bad to worse.
"Coming on the heels of the recent arrests of 8 Tibetans for allegedly "inciting" the immolations that have killed roughly 100 since 2009, this sweep shows the Chinese government is desperate to stop the burnings," he said. "The situation in Tibet is not only a domestic challenge, but also a foreign one, as China's efforts to increase its soft power internationally are undermined by the brutal crackdown."
Carlson said it was unlikely that the crackdown would do anything but inflame further resentment among Tibetans, though Beijing has a record of success in suppressing unrest.
About 50 Tibetans had been arrested over the three months leading up to Thursday's detentions in China's northwestern Qinghai province, BBC News reported.
However, only 12 of the 70 people rounded up this week were formally arrested, Reuters reported.
Official news agency Xinhua quoted Lu Benqian, Qinghai's deputy police chief, as saying: "Police will exert more efforts to thoroughly investigate the cases and seriously punish those who incite innocent people to commit self-immolation."
Activists have said that the trials of people accused of instigating the immolations are legally baseless, the BBC said.