Police in western China have shot dead a Tibetan man and wounded two others amid protests against Chinese rule, reports say.

The London-based Free Tibet and Radio Free Asia said the men were shot on Tuesday by police who were looking for or had detained another man in connection with a January 25 incident in which protesters tore down a Chinese flag at a police station in a Tibetan area of Qinghai province.

Tibet, a remote and mainly Buddhist territory, remains under Chinese rule but its exiled government in India continues to seek autonomy.

Radio Free Asia said the three men were shot while trying to protect the leader of the protest, identified only as Thubwang, during a police manhunt.

The two wounded men are brothers, identified as Karkho and Jampel Lodroe, Free Tibet said. One was wounded in the arm and the other in the leg, and both were treated at a local hospital, it said.

At least two dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire over the past year to protest what activists say is China's suppression of Tibetan religion and culture.

The communist government has blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, for encouraging the self-immolations.

The latest protests come at a sensitive time for Tibet and China.

China's national legislature is meeting this week amid heightened security throughout the country. March also is when Tibetans mark significant anniversaries, notably the unsuccessful 1959 revolt during which the Dalai Lama left for exile in Dharamshala, India, and deadly anti-government riots that rocked the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in 2008. 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies