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Tibetan self-immolations continue in China

Human rights groups report 12 such cases in the last 10 days, co-inciding with Communist Party Congress in Beijing.
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2012 11:20
An activist waves the Tibetan flag as he is arrested by Indian police outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi [AFP]

Two more Tibetans have died after reportedly setting themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, a rights group said, on the same day that the Communist Party unveiled its new generation of leaders.

If confirmed, the incidents on Thursday would bring the total number Tibetan self-immolations to 12 in the last 10 days, since the run-up to the 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing.

The London-based Free Tibet organisation said the man and woman set themselves alight in two separate incidents in different areas of the town of Tongren in China's northwest Qinghai province. 

The Washington-based Radio Free Asia also reported the latest incidents.

Tibet advocacy groups overseas said the protests were meant to highlight Tibetan unhappiness with Chinese rule as the country's leaders handed over power to Xi Jinping and six other members of the Politburo Standing Committee. 

Led by Xi, Beijing's new leaders were introduced last Thursday.

One of the two victims was Tingzin Dolma, a 23-year-old woman, the rights group said late on Thursday.

Chinese state media also reported on Thursday that a 14-year-old boy died after self-immolating in Tongren, in what appears to be a separate incident.

Details on a third victim, an 18-year-old man, including whether or not he survived, were not available due to "severe restrictions" on communications in the area, Free Tibet said.

The latest reported incidents follow the deaths of two men who set fire to themselves in Tongren on Monday, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Religious repression

Other self-immolations since November 7 have included a man who died after setting himself alight on Saturday afternoon in northwestern Gansu province, Xinhua also reported.

An 18-year-old man died after he set fire to himself outside a monastery in Qinghai, and a 23-year-old woman died after setting herself alight in the same area, the Tibetan government-in-exile said.

It also said a trio of young monks set themselves on fire on November 7 in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province, in southwest China, leaving one dead and the others injured, while another burning took place in Tibet itself.

Tibetans living in exile in India have also been showing their frustration with China. They recently marched through the northern town of Dharamsala, calling for a free Tibet.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and of eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

China rejects this, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

The AFP news agency said it was unable to reach the police in Tongren on Friday, and a local government official said she could not comment on the reported self-immolations.

A local shop owner who gave his surname as Wang told AFP that communications were restricted in the town.

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