Tibetan self-immolates in China: rights groups

A Tibetan Buddhist monk has died after setting himself ablaze in China, Western rights groups said, the latest in a string of self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule.

US-based Radio Free Asia said Lobsang Thokmey torched himself at Kirti monastery on Saturday to mark a 2008 security crackdown by Chinese authorities in the country's Tibetan areas.

He emerged burning from his room at the monastery carrying a Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag, RFA said, and died before he arrived at hospital.

London-based Free Tibet also reported the death of the 28-year-old monk at the monastery, a historic centre of Tibetan Buddhist learning in Aba prefecture of southwestern Sichuan province.

More than 100 people have set themselves on fire in protest at China's rule since 2009 and around 90 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.

Tensions erupted in violent demonstrations in March 2008 in Tibet's capital Lhasa, which then spread into neighbouring Tibetan areas of China, including Kirti.

Tibet's government-in-exile said more than 200 people died in the March 2008 unrest, but China denies that account, saying there were 21 deaths and that "rioters" were responsible.

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.

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.