Beijing: Two teenagers have set themselves on
fire near a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwest China amid
rumours that dozens of monks were ready to "sacrifice their
lives", rights groups said on Friday.
The teenagers -- Choepel and Khayang -- were former monks
from Sichuan province`s Kirti monastery, the scene of repeated
protests, the London-based Free Tibet said in statement.
The latest incidents -- confirmed by another rights group
with contacts in the region -- take the number of people
reported to have set themselves on fire to seven this year.
Free Tibet, an activist group, said there were unconfirmed
reports that Choepel, 19, had died while the condition of
Khayang, 18, was not known.
The former monks were wearing street clothes when they set
themselves alight this morning in the centre of Aba town.
"Rumours are circulating that dozens of monks are now
ready to sacrifice their lives," Free Tibet director Stephanie
Brigden said in a statement.
Brigden said there were reports that pamphlets had been
distributed around the monastery and market place in Aba
warning of further deaths if "Chinese policies at the
monastery and in the town continue".
The news agency calls to the government and police in Aba went
unanswered while a woman at the local hospital said she was
"not sure" if two men had been admitted with burns.
The restive Tibetan Buddhist monastery has been the scene
of repeated protests, according to rights groups, and previous
self-immolations in the region have triggered a crackdown.
The number of monks at Kirti monastery has fallen to about
600 from 2,500 in March due to "compulsory patriotic
re-education, detentions and expulsions", Free Tibet said,
citing sources in the region.
Brigden said Choepel had been expelled from the monastery
in March. It was not known why Khayang had left.
"Local sources report that there are still high numbers
of security personnel in the town and increased numbers of
soldiers billeted outside. Locals describe the town as being
`completely under control`," she said.
Three monks from Kirti monastery attempted
self-immolations in recent weeks in apparent protests against
perceived religious repression. Another two reported cases in
the same Tibetan region happened in August and March.
In August, China jailed three monks for between 10 and 13
years for helping a young monk kill himself in March, raising
criticism from the United States and rights groups.
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as
increasing domination by the country`s majority Han ethnic