LONG BEACH, California — The Dalai Lama voiced sadness Friday at the reported self-immolation of two more Tibetans, the latest in a wave of such protests against Beijing’s rule. But the Tibetan spiritual leader was cautious of further comment, because the issue was “very political” — and also reiterated that he saw positive signs of reforms from Chinese leaders. “It is very, very sad,” he said, when asked about the latest two self-immolations in a restive southwestern region of China, reported by human rights in groups. “Indeed, very sad. But at the same time it is currently (a) very very political issue. I prefer (to) remain silent,” he added, during a visit to California. A total of 34 Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, are now reported to have attempted to kill themselves in the same way since the start of 2011 over what they see as Chinese repression of their culture. The latest self-immolations by a pair of young Tibetan men occurred Thursday in the prefecture of Aba, in a rugged area of Sichuan province, overseas Tibetan rights groups said. The Dalai Lama, who began a U.S. trip in Hawaii before traveling to California this week and then on to Chicago and Canada, repeated his view that there were positive signs of political reform.
He cited comments by outgoing Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, that China has no way forward but through economic and political structural reform, as well as the sidelining of a key hardliner. “These things show (that) the more open-minded leaders … are gaining the upper hand. So that’s a hopeful sign,” he told reporters in Long Beach, California. China has imposed tight security to contain simmering discontent in Tibetan regions since 2008, when deadly rioting against Chinese rule broke out in Tibet’s capital Lhasa and spread to neighboring Tibetan-inhabited regions. Beijing has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, of inciting the self-immolations in a bid to split the vast Himalayan region from the rest of the nation, a charge he denies.