Beijing: A Tibet activist group says two people have set themselves on fire in southwest China in the latest in a series of apparent self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.
The London-based Free Tibet said in an e-mailed statement late Friday night that witnesses saw a man set himself on fire Friday near a monastery in Aba prefecture in Sichuan province. It says security forces put out the flames and took the man away. His condition is unknown.
Free Tibet says someone else died about the same time in a self-immolation nearby. It gave no other details.
The claims could not be independently confirmed. A woman who answered the phone at the prefecture government office on Saturday said she did not know anything about the incidents and hung up without giving her name. Calls to local police offices rang unanswered.
Aside from the latest claims, at least 12 monks, nuns and former monks are believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year in what are seen as acts of desperation in the face of tightening Chinese controls over Tibetan life and culture. Most of the incidents have occurred in heavily Tibetan areas of Sichuan.
Most of the protesters who set themselves on fire are calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.
Chinese authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression, although they have confirmed some self-immolations and accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging such acts. The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India say they oppose all violence.