Asia-Pacific

Tibetan jailed over fellow monk's self-immolation

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A Chinese court has jailed a Tibetan monk for 11 years, saying he hid a fellow monk who set himself on fire in an apparent anti-Beijing protest.

The court convicted him of "intentional homicide", saying he had denied the man emergency treatment.

The incident happened in March in Sichuan province's Aba county, where there is a large ethnic Tibetan community.

It sparked protests and a security clampdown in the area.

The circumstances surrounding the monk's death remain unclear.

Chinese authorities say the man - named as Rigzin Phuntsog of the Kirti monastery - set himself on fire on 16 March and died because he was hidden by fellow monks for several hours, preventing him getting treatment.

At the time, Tibetan rights groups reported that witnesses saw police put out the flames, then begin beating the monk, at which point monks and local people took him to the monastery before taking him to hospital some hours later.

After Phuntsog's death protests were then reported in the area around the monastery, followed by a heavy security presence.

Rights groups accused the government of shutting the monks in the monastery and forcing them to take part in compulsory "patriotic education".

Wave of protest

Image caption Image from Free Tibet of funeral at Kirti monastery on 19 March for Phuntsog, who set himself on fire

A report from state-run Xinhua news agency said the court sentenced Phuntsog's uncle, Drongdru, to 11 years in prison for hiding him.

Two other monks charged in connection with the case are due to go on trial on Tuesday.

In March 2008, Tibet witnessed a wave of violent anti-China protests - its worst unrest in 20 years.

China responded to the unrest with a military crackdown, including in areas like Aba which are outside Tibet but have a large ethnic Tibetan population.

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.

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

There have been a number of incidents of monks setting themselves on fire to protest against Beijing's rule.

Earlier this month, 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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