Tibetan self-immolations: 'Clashes' in Sichuan province

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Two more Tibetans are reported to have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas of China, in protest against Chinese rule.

A monk named Lungtok and a man identified as Tashi set themselves alight in Aba, Sichuan province, on Monday evening, said Tibetan sources.

Clashes between Chinese security personnel and Tibetans reportedly broke out following the self-immolations.

More than 40 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the past year.

Five - these two men and three previous protesters - have self-immolated in the last 10 days alone, say campaigners, in what appears to be an escalation of Tibetan protests inside China.

An unconfirmed report says one Tibetan was beaten to death.

'Batons spiked with nails'

Twenty-year-old Lungtok and 21-year-old Tashi "set themselves on fire inside a prayer-wheel hut near Kirti Monastery in Ngaba Town", reported campaign group Free Tibet, using the Tibetan name for the town which China refers to as Aba.

"Once they were in flames, [they] came out of the hut and walked towards the street now known as Martyrs' Street," overtly linking their action to the protests of previous self-immolators, it said.

Chinese paramilitary police quickly moved in with extinguishers, local sources said, and whisked away the two men. Free Tibet said Lungtok died and Tashi's condition was unknown.

Multiple reports suggest that following the self-immolations Tibetans began to demonstrate and their numbers quickly increased.

"Eyewitnesses report that some demonstrators were beaten with metal batons spiked with nails and that some people were dragged away," said Free Tibet.

Many people were injured and some were detained, it said.

The Tibet Divide

  • China says Tibet always part of its territory
  • Tibet had long periods of autonomy
  • China launched a military assault in 1950
  • Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
  • Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India
  • Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not independence

A source who spoke to Radio Free Asia (RFA) said one Tibetan was beaten to death, but this report has not been confirmed. RFA also carried a report of a third self-immolation, but this too was unconfirmed.

'Incitement'

A woman who answered the phone at the Aba police department denied any self-immolations or protests had taken place, reported the Associated Press news agency.

Kirti Monastery has been the focus of protests for over a year now and is ringed by Chinese security forces, says the BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing.

But they have proved unable to halt the self-immolations.

China's leaders blame the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' exiled spiritual leader, for inciting the self-immolations and encouraging separatism.

He rejects this, and both activist groups and the Tibetan government-in-exile say the self-immolations are protests against tight Chinese control of the region and religious repression.

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