Major international figures working to gain Tibetan independence are gathering in Taiwan to discuss the future of the movement.

The Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan (HRNTT) is hosting a series of public events over the next week titled, “The Future of Tibet: Who Decides and How.”

Visiting speakers include as Pema Yoko, chief executive of Students for a Free Tibet, Tenzing Jigme, Chairman of Tibetan Youth Congress and Tenzin Dorjee of Tibet Action Institute.

Dorjee advocates non-violent grassroots movements. His research suggests that contrary to Chinese propaganda, the Tibetan struggle has moved toward a tighter embrace of nonviolent resistance as opposed to extremist activities.

Dorjee believes, “Tibetans are now waging a quiet, slow-building nonviolent movement, centered on strengthening the Tibetan national and cultural fabric of transformative resistance.”

His book, “The Tibetan Nonviolent Struggle: A Strategic and Historical Analysis,” traces the three major Tibetan uprisings over the past six decades, focusing on themes, purposes, challenges, strategies, tactics and impacts.

The calls for non-violent protest follow the first case of self-immolation protest in Tibet this year. Pema Gyaltsen, a 24-year-old Tibetan man, in late March set himself on fire near Tsokha monastery in Kardze.

Similar to previous acts of self-immolation, Gyaltsen protested “repressive rule” by the Chinese communist party in Tibet.

Since invading Tibet in 1949, Chinese authorities have continued to suppress Tibetan culture and religion. More than 6,000 Tibetan monasteries have been destroyed, and Tibetans living in China who have protested against China have been subject to human rights abuses. Despite the objections of Tibetan leaders, Tibet has seen 147 cases of self-immolation as a form of protest against Chinese oppression since 2009.

Earlier in March, Chinese officials announced that more than 3,000 homes at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institution, would be torn down by April 30. With the intention of re-education, expelled nuns and monks are not permitted to practice religion or join affiliated groups. So far, 4,500 residents have been forced to leave.

“Show great forbearance and not react with protest, suicide and the like,” said a senior Abbot to the community of nuns and monks.

Tsering Woeser, author of the blog Invisible Tibet, believes that self-immolators see their self-immolation as a form of action. Instead of living in exile or passively waiting for the international community to resolve the Tibet issue self-immolation is an act of self-reliance.

“Most self-immolations express courage and commitment to the cause. They are a way to experience personal heroism. It is a way of defending our dignity, sharing the pain, inspiring courage and an expression of ideas of self-sublimation like Nirvana,” writes Woeser.

There are approximately 485 Tibetans living in Taiwan, according to the Mongol and Tibetan Affairs Commission.

Editor: Olivia Yang