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Tibet: How the trouble started

XINING — Monks are under lockdown as negotiations hit a stalemate.

Lobsang Sangay, Tibet's prime minister-in-exile, urges Tibetans not to celebrate the new year

Tibetans will not be celebrating the usually joyful Tibetan new year of Losar on Wednesday, in protest of Chinese rule.

China detains several hundred Tibetans, says Human Rights Watch

The detained Tibetans might be forced into political re-education camps after returning from teaching sessions with the Dalai Lama.

Tense times continue in Tibet

Details are scarce, but given China's security crackdown, it's clear the situation is serious.
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Tibetans and supporters of the Tibetan cause stage a hunger strike in The Hague on Nov. 16, 2011. (Valerie Kuypers/AFP/Getty Images)

The tense situation on the Tibetan plateau is not getting any better in the days leading up to when Tibetans traditionally celebrate the new year.

Tibetan rights groups outside of China report that another nun set herself on fire this weekend to protest Chinese rule in the region, where unrest has spread far beyond the borders of what China defines as Tibet.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua confirmed the incident, which took place in Aba, a heavily Tibetan part of Sichuan province.

More from GlobalPost: Tibet is burning

Though China hasn't confirmed all of the self-immolations, Tibetan activists say this case marks the 23rd in two years. Both Free Tibet and Xinhua say the 18-year-old nun has died of her injuries.

The number of deaths and scale of protests, along with the scope of the security response, are all particularly hard to pin down. China has gone to extreme lengths to bar all but official government-run media from reporting in the Tibetan region, making confirmation of the incidents nearly impossible.

But given the massive security response and China's efforts to stymy foreign journalists from entering the area, it's clear that serious problems remain.

More from GlobalPost: Video of Tibet self-immolation (GRAPHIC)

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John McCain irks Chinese officials with Arab Spring comments

US Senator John McCain publicly challenged China on it's systematic stomping of political expression.
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US senator John McCain looks on during day one of the 48th Munich Security Conference at Hotel Bayerischer Hof on February 3, 2012 in Munich, Germany. The 48th Munich conference on security policy is running till February 5, 2012. (Johannes Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

US Sen. John McCain irked Chinese officials over the weekend by doing something that American officials rarely do anymore — challenging China's narrative in public.

McCain, who lost the president race to President Barack Obama in 2008, told a senior Chinese official that it's only a matter of time before the Arab Spring filters in to China.

Beijing reacted last year to tiny protests in the Chinese capital with overwhelming force and a huge police presence, then systematically spent months clamping down on its critics, arresting, detaining and threatening those who questioned officialdom.

According to Reuters, while speaking at a panel in Germany, McCain told China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun that the ongoing protests and self-immolations on the Tibetan plateau are a sure sign that change is inevitable.

More from GlobalPost: China says "No sweat" over Tibet

"It is a matter of concern when Tibetans are burning themselves to death because of the continued repression of the Tibetan people in your country," McCain reportedly said. "I have said on many occasions and I will say again the Arab Spring is coming to China as well."

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Exiled Tibetan government makes call for help

In the wake of three more reported self-immolations, Tibet's government-in-exile has asked for international assistance in negotiating with China.
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Buddhists attend a candle vigil by the Tibetan Community in memory of self immolations in Tibet during the eighth day of the Kalachakra Festival in Bodhgaya on January 8, 2012. Kalachakra 2012, a festival of teachings and meditations will take place from January 1, 2012 for ten days in the northern Indian state of Bihar and will be attended by Tibetan Spiritual Leader The Dalai Lama. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

In the wake of three more Tibetans reportedly immolating themselves over the weekend, Tibet's government-in-exile has asked for international assistance in negotiating with China.

In a webcast press conference on Monday, an official with the exiled government in Dharamsala said Tibetans worldwide would hold a vigil on Feb. 8 to draw further international attention to the situation in greater Tibet, which includes the Tibetan autonomous region in China and parts of other provinces.

In the past few months there have been 19 reported cases of Tibetans self-immolating in protest over Chinese rule of the region. The protests are believed to stem from China's tight control on Tibetans' religious practices and their calls to be allowed to recognize the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader.

More from GlobalPost: China cut internet and phone access in Tibet

Radio Free Asia, one of the only international media organizations able to track events in the area because of tight controls on foreign journalists by China, reported that over the weekend, three Tibetan herders set themselves on fire in a Tibetan part of Sichuan province. 

The region is not likely to cool down any time soon. In addition to plans for the vigil on Feb. 8, Tibetan New Year is coming up at the end of February, while March 10 marks the anniversary of a Chinese crackdown in Tibet. That date touched off violent protests in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet in 2008.

More from GlobalPost: Tibetan activists continue protests

“We don’t know which direction it’s going to go. We’re following very closely, but we don’t know,” said Dicki Chhoyang, international relations spokeswoman for international relations. “The Chinese government could put an end to this by listening to the grievances of the people and engaging them through dialogue.” 

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China: Tibetan activists continue protests

China has ratcheted up security in Tibetan region, cutting internet and phone service.
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Tibetans (L) walk next to a police car on a street in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan. 27, 2012. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

China has ratcheted up security in the Tibetan region, cutting internet and some mobile phone services in large swatches as patrols clamp down on protest.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported from a Tibetan part of Sichuan province on Friday, saying that internet and phone services were cut in a 50-square-kilometer area around protest sites.

The nationalistic newspaper published one of the only available reports in English from the Tibetan region, as foreign journalists in China have been blocked from reporting on the situation.

In a lengthy piece under the headline, "Monks Run Amok," the newspaper focused on a Han Chinese man who said his house and possessions were destroyed when "a knife-wielding mob shouting death threats," stormed his home. The piece said his house was targeted because his brother is a local police official.

More from GlobalPost: China says "no sweat" over Tibet

Tibetan activists based outside of China have documented wide protests across Tibet since late last year, and the Chinese security response, which they say is heavy-handed.

It's been impossible for most foreign journalists to reach the area to independently investigate or verify what has happened.

The Global Times took a party line in painting the conflict, in which several Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule, saying that it was driven by forces outside of China and not an ethnic dispute. The man whose house was destroyed told the newspaper: "There's no conflict between Han and Tibetan people. All the crimes were committed by political monks in foreign countries."

That thinly veiled reference to the Dalai Lama comes a day after the newspaper hinted that China would outlast the Tibetan spiritual leader by waiting for him to die.

More from GlobalPost: Video purports to show Tibetan nun self-immolating (GRAPHIC)

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Chinese paper: "No sweat" over Tibet

Journalists are barred from Tibet as tensions rise.
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Tibetans walk next to a police car on a street in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan. 27, 2012. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

As the situation in Tibet grows potentially worse and more unclear because of lack of access to journalists, a major state-run Chinese newspaper has weighed in by saying there's "no need to sweat over minor unrest."

In an editorial published on Thursday, the nationalistic Global Times said foreign hand-wringing over Tibet was fruitless and unhelpful. In recent weeks, Tibetan rights groups have chronicled a growing crackdown in the region, where monks and others have reportedly staged protests and set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule of the Tibetan region.

More from Globalpost: China increases security following Tibetan protests

The protests and heavy-handed response from Chinese security forces have been accompanied by a virtual closing off of the area, which extends beyond the borders of Tibet proper and into other Chinese provinces. Several foreign correspondents who have attempted to access the region have been stopped, detained and sent back to Beijing.

In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said: "The Chinese authorities have set up a massive security cordon in an attempt to prevent journalists from entering Tibetan areas in Western Sichuan Province where major unrest — including killings and self-immolations — has been reported."

More from GlobalPost: Buddhist monk "first to self-immolate in Tibet"

The Global Times said China shouldn't worry about such things. But violent protests in Tibet that erupted in 2008 gave Beijing a black eye just ahead of its first-ever Olympics and led to anti-China protests around the world as the Olympic torch circle the globe.

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China: Security forces "open fire on Tibetan protesters" in Sichuan

At least 15 Tibetan monks and nuns are believed to have self-immolated in the past year, in protest at Chinese rule and the Dalai Lama's exile.
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