China: Two Tibetans set themselves alight in Sichuan

A monk meditates at a monastery in Sichuan province on 23 March 2008 Rights groups have long criticised China's treatment of Tibetan monks

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A former Tibetan monk has died and another is seriously injured after setting themselves on fire in separate incidents in south west-China.

Chinese state media confirmed the incidents occurred in the traditionally Tibetan region of Sichuan.

London-based Free Tibet group said the men were protesting over Chinese rule.

Activists say at least 14 people have set themselves alight in the past year, demanding an end to tight Chinese controls in ethnically Tibetan areas.

A 22-year-old former monk was taken to hospital with serious burns after setting himself alight at a crossroads in Sichuan's Aba prefecture, China's Xinhua news agency said.

Another former monk died after burning himself to death in a hotel around the same time, Xinhua said.

The Dalai Lama has condemned the self-immolations, but says people are being driven to desperation by "cultural genocide" under Chinese rule.

Beijing rejects this and accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader of encouraging people to set themselves on fire.

The Chinese authorities say their policies have brought a better standard of living to many Tibetans.

China is reluctant to allow journalists access to sensitive Tibetan areas and information about what is happening on the ground is difficult to verify.

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