At the Atlantic there's an interview of Robert Barnett, Director of the Modern Tibet Studies Program at Columbia University, on the recent incidents of self-immolations of Tibetan monks and nuns in China. Barnett has some perspectives on the situation I don't believe I have seen elsewhere.
Barnett spoke of the large demonstrations that broke out in Tibet in 2008, some of which spiraled into violence. The violence allowed the Chinese government to avoid discussion of the underlying issues, he said. The self-immolations send a message to the government that, it is hoped, Beijing will not be able to brush aside because it does not involve unrest or property damage.
Barnett also says many of the current problems can be traced to a change in Chinese policy that began in 1994. Beijing "decided to focus above all on attacking the Dalai Lama by forcing monks and nuns to denounce him and greatly increasing regulations concerning monasteries and religion," Barnett says.
At first this policy was being enforced in what is called the Tibetan Autonomous Region, but in the last ten years it has been applied to Chinese provinces east of the TAR with large ethnic Tibetan populations, notably Qinghai and Sichuan. Most of the 23 reported self-immolations happened in Sichuan.
Barnett says these areas had been mostly peaceful since the 1970s. The current unrest is directly caused by China's decision to institute re-education programs in the monasteries and ban devotion to the Dalai Lama.
Barnett also says the self-immolations are respected by the Tibetans, if carried out by monks or nuns for a selfless purpose. Beijing's attempts to portray the monks and nuns as brainwashed fanatics have so far failed.
Meanwhile, Jamil Anderlini writes in the Financial Times that there has been less unrest in Qinghai than in Sichuan because, for some reason, Chinese officials are more tolerant in Qinghai. Qinghai has had only two self-immolations, Anderlini says, which makes me think the "tolerance" may be a bit relative.