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Rights Group: 3 Tibetans Self-Immolate Protesting Chinese Rule

Three young Tibetans have self-immolated in China in the past 48 hours to protest against Chinese rule in the autonomous Tibetan region, a rights group said late on Monday.

A least 20 such cases of self-immolation involving Tibetans have been reported in China this month alone. According to the London-based Free Tibet, at least 75 such immolations, including 50 in 2012, have taken place in Tibet since 2009.

Free Tibet said in a statement posted on its website that 18-year-old Kunchok Tsering committed self-immolation in Amchog Township of Sangchu County earlier on Monday. The rights group said Tsering died at the scene of the protest.

The second self-immolation of the day took place in Serthar County, Kandze prefecture, when 20-year-old former monk Wang Gyal set himself on fire after reportedly shouting for freedom in Tibet and the return of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama who is currently in exile in India.

According to the rights group, Wang Gyal ran towards a statue in the middle of the county town after setting himself on fire. He was soon taken away by Chinese security forces. Witnesses said Wang Gyal suffered severe burns, but is not yet known whether he survived.

Meanwhile, local residents and monks cremated the body of 17-year-old Buddhist nun Sangye Dolma, who had died late on Sunday after a self-immolation in the Duohemao township of Qinghai province. Free Tibet said she had died at the scene of the protest.

The developments come amid an ongoing student protest against Chinese government's policies in Qinghai's Gonghe, or Chabcha county. Media reports indicate that at least 20 students were injured in the police crackdown on the protest.

The wave of self-immolation began after one of the monks of the Kirti monastery in Aba prefecture set himself on fire on March 16, 2011. His death sparked protests in the region, prompting the arrest of some 300 monks at the Ngaba Kirti monastery.

Whereabouts of the monks were not known after they were taken into custody by Chinese security forces on April 21. China, however, claims that relevant local authorities are currently "conducting legal education for the Kirti monastery monks in order to maintain religious order there."

Tensions have been high across the region ever since violent protests against Chinese rule broke out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 2009. China successfully crushed the uprising and arrested hundreds of Tibetans in the deadly riots. Long jail terms were slapped on many of them and some were put to death.

China's tough stand on Tibet has evoked international criticism and many nations have urged its Communist government to hold further negotiations with representatives of the self-styled Tibetan government in exile in India.

China accuses the Tibetan government in exile of seeking total independence for Tibet, but Tibetans maintain that they are only seeking greater autonomy for Tibetan parts of western China, not absolute independence as projected by the Chinese government.

Currently, China's Tibetan-populated areas are witnessing their worst unrest in four years, with several protests being staged in the region since January. The protests have intensified ahead of the Tibetan new year, which falls on February 22.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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