Two Tibetans self-immolate in China: rights groups

Two more Tibetans have died after setting themselves ablaze in China, Western rights groups said Monday, the latest in a string of self-immolations carried out in protest against Chinese rule.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and London-based Free Tibet said in separate releases that a man identified as Tsesung Kyab set himself on fire in front of a Buddhist monastery in western Gansu province.

The man, believed to be in his late twenties, died on the final day of the Tibetan New Year, ICT said, adding that he was related to another Tibetan who died after setting himself on fire in December.

Separately, ICT and US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) also reported that another Tibetan set himself ablaze Sunday in China's Qinghai province. ICT said in its report Monday that the man, Phagmo Dundrup, had died.

More than 100 people have set themselves on fire in protest at China's rule since 2009 and at least 87 have died, according to reports.

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.

Beijing rejects criticism of its rule, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and pointing to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

Authorities have sought to crack down on the protests by arresting those accused of inciting them and prosecuting them for murder, and have embarked on a major publicity drive on the issue in recent weeks.

Beijing accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his "clique" of inciting such acts to push a separatist agenda. But the Dalai Lama says he is seeking greater autonomy rather than Tibetan independence.

The Nobel laureate fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising, and has since based himself in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala.