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More bad news for Tibetan monks

China has sentenced a Tibetan monk to 11 years in jail for hiding his fellow monk who had self-immolated.
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Tibetan monk delegates arrive at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 12, 2009. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, news of a monk self-immolating in southwestern China sent ripples of terror through the Tibetan Buddhist community.

Not only did the act of Tsewang Norbu, known as Norko, burning himself alive bring onlookers to a halt, and force them to register the oppression under which Tibetans live in China.

But it also forced people to say, "Again?"

Norko was the second monk to light himself on fire and die from subsequent injuries in the last six months.

And today, it is that first monk, Rigzin Phuntsog, who self-immolated in China's Sichuan province on March 16, who is again making headlines months after his death.

A Chinese court has sentenced a monk called Drongdru to 11 years in jail for “intentional homicide” for hiding his fellow monk and preventing him from getting treatment after he set himself on fire, state news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.

According to Reuters:

Drongdru ... pled guilty to the murder charge and said he felt very regretful over the hiding and prevention of emergency treatment and asked for leniency. Drongdru said at the court room that he would not appeal against the verdict,” Xinhua said.

According to reports, at least three monks have self-immolated in China since 2009.

Two other monks will stand trial on Tuesday charged with “plotting, instigating and assisting” in Rigzin Phuntsog's self-immolation.


Second Tibetan monk burns himself alive

Phone lines are reportedly cut off and the army is said to have surrounded the monastery.
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A Tibetan Buddhist monk walks on the Potala Palace square on June 19, 2009 in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Tsewang Norbu, known as Norko, is reported to have drunk gasoline before pouring some on the rest of his body, and lighting himself on fire.

He is the second monk to have self-immolated in last six months in southwestern China's Sichuan province, protesting the worsening conditions for ethnic Tibetans there.

After the first monk burned himself alive on March 16, China clamped down. And repression worsened further when Tibetans in Tawu, where 29-year-old Norko died, defied a government ban on celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday on July 6.

Many fear the Chinese government will respond to the perceived rise in tensions with a strong hand.

More from GlobalPost: Tibet's new prime minister has never been to Tibet.

According to the activist website, Free Tibet, phone lines have been cut and internet cafes closed in Tawu, and the Chinese army is reported to have surrounded the monastery, where Norko died.

Following the death of the first monk, the Chinese regime deployed troops onto the streets of Ngaba, where he died. Activists say they forcibly removed hundreds of monks, imposed curfews, undertook house searches and detained and sentenced scores of Tibetans.

The military checkpoints in Ngaba remain six months later, and many worry a similar scene will transpire in Tawu.

China's state media reported the death of the monk, but used the Chinese name for Tawu (Daofu), and said it was unclear why he had self-immolated.

But Norko made it clear, according to Free Tibets, calling out three irrefutable slogans as he burned alive:

“We Tibetan people want freedom,” “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Let the Dalai Lama Return to Tibet.”


On Dalai Lama's birthday, Nepal prevents Tibetan celebrations

Tibetans tried to hold celebrations at the Namgyal school in Katmandu, but hundreds of riot police prevented them from entering the grounds, the Associated Press reports. Police stopped all Tibetans -- including monks and nuns -- who were not children in school uniforms.

Dalai Lama doesn't get the Dalai Lama joke

Leave it to the Aussies to finally stump His Holiness.
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Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, gestures while speaking at Parliament House in Canberra on June 14, 2011. (Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)

Have you ever wondered what you would say to the Dalai Lama, if you ever got the chance to meet him?

One Australian newscaster clearly has not.

On his recent trip Down Under, the Dalai Lama appeared on an Australian news program. The newscaster decided he would, after all, share that one clever Dalai Lama joke

Suffice it to say the Tibetan spiritual leader doesn't get the joke, though still manages to have the last laugh.

One line that did get His Holiness to giggle was when he confused the prime minister's gender, referring to Julia Gillard as a man.

"Oh, her," he said with a laugh, after one of his aids corrected him.

Gillard refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, but said it was unrelated to his gaffe.


In Mongolia, thousands catch the protest bug

Uighurs, Tibetans and now Mongolians are taking to the streets.
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A Mongolian herder rides his horse near his home in Zhenglan County of Xilingguole League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of north China. (Cancan Chu/Getty Images)

Thousands of Mongolians took to the streets Wednesday, demanding better protection of their rights after a herder was hit by a truck, rights groups reported.

Ethnic Mongolians in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region rarely express dissent toward Chinese rule, but the death of a herder named Mergen has proven an exception. 

Mergen had been among the herders trying to block a caravan of coal trucks from destroying their grazing lands. On May 10, he was run over by a truck driven by an ethnic Han Chinese. One report said Mergen's body was dragged for nearly 500 feet.

Inner Mongolia covers more than 10 percent of China’s land area and is now the country’s biggest coal producer. As its resources become more in demand, well, you can guess what happens next.

The Chinese government has been relocating more than 250,000 nomads from Inner Mongolia, under the guise of protecting the grasslands.

Mongolians see it differently. They are already hugely outnumbered by Han Chinese (ethnic Mongols are 17 percent of the Inner Mongolia's 23 million), and they say they are now being further marginalized.

But this isn't a story about how a bad situation in one remote area led to a rare act of protest. This is the story that reminds us of Asia's many moments of dissent, even in cultures not prone to making a fuss over criticism.

Consider others who have protested Chinese rule.

Tibetans rose up in 2008, though that didn't end well. China cracked down vehemently, killing (by many accounts) well over 100 people. In the years since, a more quiet, metered form of resistance has emerged in Tibet.

The Uighurs rioted en masse in the far-western region of Xinjiang in 2009. Nearly 200 people were killed during the mayhem.

In recent weeks, authorities have detained hundreds of Tibetan monks for "legal education" in Sichuan after a monk set himself on fire.

There are the Red Shirts in Thailand, who occupied major portions of Bangkok in their quest to topple the government in 2010.

And even in Japan, a country where conformity is highly valued, anti-nuke rallies have become common in recent weeks. Demonstrators have gathered in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto to openly criticize the government’s response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.

But don't expect to see the masses rising up with any reliability in China.

Though an estimated 100,000 “mass incidents” occur in China every year, they tend to arise over hyperlocal issues in far-flung, more under-developed areas (like, say, Inner Mongolia).


Dalai Lama backs bin Laden's killing?

In a Tuesday appearance, the Tibetan Buddhist leader said "forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened."
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The Dalai Lama in Tokyo on April 29, 2011. (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

To be fair, it wasn't like His Holiness came out and said he wanted bin Laden dead.

But for the man who serves as the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhists — you know, the ones with reverence for all living things — to even suggest that the killing of Osama bin Laden was justified is worth noting.

And according to the Los Angeles Times, at least, that's exactly what he did.

After speaking at the University of California to a crowd of thousands, the Dalai Lama was asked about the Sunday raid on Osama.

In his answer, the Dalai Lama said that as a human being the world's most wanted man may have deserved forgivenes.

But then he added: "Forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened. … If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures."

One reading of this statement certainly suggests that the Dalai Lama was on board with the Sunday raid in which Al Qaeda's No. 1 was shot twice, once through the eye.

But, even if he did suggest as much, is that in conflict with Buddhism?


What's to come of Free Tibet movement?

Democracy may bring a new kind of factionalism to Tibetan exile politics.

China says Dalai Lama retirement is a "trick" (VIDEO)

The Nobel Peace laureate says he will hand over control of Tibet's self-declared government in exile to an elected leader.
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