Two Tibetans set themselves alight: rights group

Two Tibetans were reported to have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, said a rights group, on the same day the Communist Party unveiled its new generation of leaders.

File photo shows Tibetans riding past armed Chinese police in the county town of Banma in China's northwest Qinghai province. Two Tibetans were reported to have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, said a rights group, on the same day the Communist Party unveiled its new generation of leaders.

If confirmed, the incidents would bring the total number of people setting themselves on fire in Tibetan areas to 12 in 10 days, since Wednesday last week -- the day before the start of the 18th Communist Party congress in Beijing.

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

The 23-year-old woman, who was named as Tingzin Dolma, died from her injuries, the rights group said late on Thursday.

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

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

The three reported incidents happened on the same day that the Communist Party unveiled its new Politburo Standing Committee -- China's highest decision-making body.

Beijing's new leaders were paraded in front of the media the day after the highly-sensitive congress ended on Wednesday.

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

Other self-immolations since November 7 have included a man who died after setting himself alight on Saturday afternoon in the 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 exiled government 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.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and 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.

AFP 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.

"I do not know anything about the self-immolations, but we have not been able to use the internet for the last four or five days and we cannot make long distance phone calls," he said.

"We were told the underground cable was broken, but we all know that is not true."

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