Tibetans protest after monk sets himself on fire in China

In this picture taken on March 9, 2012 Tibetan monks leave after taking part in a ceremony at Lajia Monastery in China's northwest Qinghai province (file photo)
Image caption Reports of unrest in Qinghai have been relatively rare

Several hundred Tibetans have protested against Chinese rule in the western province of Qinghai after a monk there set himself alight, rights groups say.

The Tibetan monk set fire to himself outside a monastery in the town of Tongren, Free Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet said.

He suffered burns but is thought to have survived.

In the past year more than 25 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest at what they say is religious repression.

Some were reported to have called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

Self-immolations are rarely reported from Qinghai, although several people have set themselves alight there in the past year. Most such incidents have taken place in the neighbouring province of Sichuan.

In Wednesday's protest, a monk in his 30s named as Jamyang Palden, set fire to himself in the square outside the Rongwo monastery in Tongren, Harriet Beaumont of Free Tibet told the BBC.

"We don't know the extent of his injuries but photos clearly show he suffered extensive burns."

She said he had been admitted to hospital but monks later took him back to the monastery "for his own safety".

"We understand that a large number of military trucks have seen arriving in the town," she said.

Free Tibet says about 500 monks gathered to show their solidarity for the monk and they were joined by people from the surrounding area.

The campaign group says there were also protests by hundreds of Tibetan students in three schools in the area, some calling for freedom to study in Tibetan.

On Wednesday China's Premier Wen Jiabao said he was distressed by the self-immolations, describing them as "radical moves which undermine social harmony".

He said Tibetan areas would remain inseparable parts of China's territory.

China has tightened security in Tibetan areas in recent weeks - 14 March is the anniversary of deadly rioting in Lhasa four years ago.

Verifying these accounts is difficult, as foreign media are not allowed into the area.

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