Six ethnic Tibetans, including three teenage monks and a mother, set fire to themselves in China in 48 hours as the country's leaders gather for a once-in-a-decade leadership change, the Agence France-Presse reported.
The protests over Beijing’s hardline rule of the Himalayan region came as the Communist Party began a week-long conference that will unveil the next generation of Chinese leaders.
The trio of monks set fire to themselves on Wednesday outside a police station in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The youngest, aged 15, died at the scene, while the other two were taken to hospital by police, London-based rights group Free Tibet reported. Their current whereabouts are not known.
On the same day, a mother of a five-year-old boy died after setting fire to herself in the western province of Qinghai, the Daily Mail reported, followed on Thursday by a man in the same region, DW reported.
Another burning incident on Wednesday was confirmed in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, DW and AFP reported.
Wednesday's burnings marked the highest number of such protests on a single day.
“These protests are aimed at sending the next generation of China’s unelected regime a clear signal that Tibetans will continue to fight for their freedom despite China’s efforts to suppress and intimidate them,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.
"As the numbers of Tibetans willing to set themselves on fire grows, and protesters grow younger, the international community’s failure to hold China accountable becomes more outrageous."
Dozens of Tibetans have set fire to themselves in a grisly series of protests that began in February 2009. The AFP put the latest toll at 69, including 54 deaths.
Chinese authorities in the northwestern province of Gansu, a heavily Tibetan region, recently started offering cash rewards for information about people planning to set fire to themselves in order to prevent further self-immolations.
Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of instigating the burnings.
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