BEIJING, China – Two more Tibetans have set themselves on fire in a restive southwestern region of China, a rights group said, the latest in a wave of such protests against Beijing’s rule.
The incidents occurred Thursday in the Tibetan prefecture of Aba in a rugged area of China’s Sichuan province, the London-based group Free Tibet said in a statement.
It added that the fate of the pair was not known, but a Tibetan Buddhist monk in the area told AFP by phone that both had died.
Free Tibet said Chinese security forces were en route to the town of Barma, where the incident took place in front of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.
Local authorities either refused to comment when contacted by AFP or calls went unanswered.
A total of 34 Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, are now reported to have set themselves on fire since the start of 2011 in protest at what they see as Chinese repression of their culture.
Many of them have reportedly died as a result of severe burns.
Free Tibet identified those involved in Thursday’s protest as Sonam and Choephak Kyap, saying they were laypeople in their 20s.
Local people took the pair away after the incident, it said, citing local sources.
A Tibetan monk at a monastery near where the incident occurred told AFP the pair had died.
“Yes, they both died that night,” he said, but refused further comment.
China has imposed tight security on restive Tibetan regions since 2008, when deadly rioting against Chinese rule broke out in Tibet’s capital Lhasa and spread to neighbouring Tibetan-inhabited regions.
Since then, confirming reports of unrest has been difficult.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities on Thursday publicly recognized 6,773 “patriotic and law-abiding” Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in a ceremony in Lhasa, the Tibetan regional capital.
Many Tibetans in China complain of religious repression and a gradual erosion of their culture blamed on a growing influx of majority Han Chinese to their homeland.
China, however, denies repressing Tibetans and says it has improved their lives with investments in infrastructure, schools and housing and by spurring economic growth.
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. – Agence France-Presse