Today, the Dalai Lama was awarded the prestigious Templeton prize, a million-dollar prize awarded each year to an outstanding spiritual leader. In other circumstances, the Templeton prize would have been the occasion for unrestrained celebration for Tibetans, for whom any international recognition of their leader stands as a gesture of moral support for a people whose future looks increasingly bleak. But this award is overshadowed by the mounting toll of sacrifice of young Tibetan lives: in the past year, some 30 Tibetans, men and women, religious figures and lay people, have set themselves on fire.
Their protests are a measure of the despair that has been growing across Tibet since the uprising in 2008 was crushed with an unrepentant brutality. Since then, scores of Tibetans, including writers and public intellectuals, monks and farmers, have been imprisoned and Tibet's monasteries, seen by the Chinese government as the focus of dissent, have been subject to intensified controls and political pressure.