China charges three in monk self-immolation case

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Three Tibetan monks have been charged over the death of a monk who set himself on fire in an apparent anti-Beijing protest, state media say.

The monks are accused of the "intentional killing" of Rigzin Phuntsog, allegedly hiding him and preventing him from getting treatment.

The incident in March sparked protests in Aba, a mainly ethnic Tibetan area of Sichuan province in south-west China.

In March 2008, Tibet witnessed a wave of violent anti-China protests.

China responded to the unrest with a massive military crackdown - including in Aba.

Many Tibetans have complained about the growing domination of China's majority Han population in Tibet and accuse the government of trying to dilute their culture.

China says it has invested heavily in Tibet and has generated significant improvements in people's living standards.

Conflicting accounts

The three defendants will stand trial on Monday and Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Two of the monks are charged with "plotting, instigating and assisting in the self-immolation of Rigzin Phuntsog", according to a local court statement.

The Tibet Divide

  • China says Tibet was always part of its territory
  • Tibet had long periods of autonomy before 20th Century
  • 1950: China launches military assault
  • 1959: Uprising against Chinese rule defeated; Dalai Lama flees to India
  • Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not independence

A third monk is accused of moving and hiding the injured monk for 11 hours, preventing him from receiving emergency treatment, which eventually led to his death.

There have been conflicting accounts of the 16-year-old monk's death.

Tibetan rights groups report that witnesses saw police put out the flames, then beat the monk, at which point monks and local people took him to the monastery.

People in the area told news agencies of a security clampdown after the death and subsequent protests.

The monastery where the incident occurred, Ngaba Kirti, is reported to still be under tight guard.

Last week, a 29-year-old Tibetan monk burned himself to death in another town Sichuan.

Activists said the monk, whom they named as Tsewang Norbu, had shouted slogans including "We Tibetan people want freedom" and "Long live the Dalai Lama" before setting himself alight.

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