Two teenagers burned to death in the southwest, taking to more than 50 the number of Tibetans who have set themselves alight in protest against Beijing's rule, rights groups said yesterday.
Lobsang Kalsang, 18, a Buddhist monk, and former monk Damchoek, 17, died in hospital on Monday after setting themselves on fire in Aba town, which has become a flashpoint for protests by ethnic Tibetans.
The Tibetan-inhabited areas have seen an explosion in violent protests since March last year, when the self-immolation of a monk, Phuntsog, at Aba's revered Kirti monastery, sparked riots and a police crackdown.
The first recorded incident was in February 2009, and there have now been 51 such fiery protests, according to tallies compiled by overseas-based pressure groups Free Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet.
In 2009, a young Kirti monk doused himself in oil and set himself on fire carrying an image of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, before being shot by police and taken to a local hospital.
The next incident was not recorded until last year, but since then dozens of ethnic Tibetans, most of them young monks and nuns, have set fire to themselves. Many, though not all, have died.
Experts say suicide is a major taboo in Tibetan Buddhist culture and the immolations are a sign of growing desperation among those living in the vast and remote Tibetan plateau.
The two teenagers in the latest incident shouted slogans condemning Beijing's policies as they set themselves alight, Radio Free Asia said, citing two India-based monks with contacts in Aba, Sichuan province.
They protested close to the Kirti monastery, which has been under intense security since Phuntsog's immolation. Free Tibet said Damchoek, who like many Tibetans used only one name, was the brother of Tenzin Choedon, a teenage nun who set fire to herself in February.
Tibetans say Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese.