Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Two Tibetan teenagers in rare double immolation

OPPRESSION:Since 2009, more than 100 people have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, including at least 22 who were under the age of 18

AFP, BEIJING

Two Tibetan teenagers died after they set fire to themselves in protest against Chinese rule, reports and Western rights groups said, in a rare instance of a double self-immolation in the restive region.

The former primary-school classmates were named as 18-year-old Sonam Dargye and a 17-year-old identified by US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) only as Rinchen.

RFA said they died on Tuesday in Aba Prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, where a wave of the gruesome acts have occurred.

Stephanie Brigden, head of London-based campaign group Free Tibet, which also reported the deaths, said: “Tibet’s children ... face all the challenges of life under oppression and are often full participants in the struggle to resist it.”

The self-immolations followed the reported death on Sunday of 49-year-old Namlha Tsering in the middle of a busy street in Xiahe County in the northwestern province of Gansu, RFA added.

On its Web site, it showed a photograph of a man purported to be Namlha Tsering engulfed in flames, sitting in the road with his legs crossed as cars passed by.

Free Tibet said the man, who was also known as Hoba, left a wife and four sons.

More than 100 people have set themselves on fire in protest at China’s rule since 2009, at least 85 of whom have died, reports said.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said at least 22 of those who have set themselves alight were aged 18 or under, including Tuesday’s double immolation.

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 that the huge ongoing investment has brought modernization and a better standard of living to Tibet.

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

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