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Two Tibetans self-immolate in China protest

By Alexis Lai, CNN
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
Exiled Tibetan monks chant prayers on June 15 after a man self-immolated in a Tibetan region of Qinghai province.
Exiled Tibetan monks chant prayers on June 15 after a man self-immolated in a Tibetan region of Qinghai province.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Report: Two Tibetans set themselves on fire on Monday in Ngaba county, Sichuan province
  • Monk from Kirti monastery and one ordinary citizen taken to hospital by police; condition unknwon
  • Incident brings total number of self-immolations in Tibet since March 2011 to 47
  • Self-immolations intended to protest Chinese rule in Tibet

(CNN) -- Two Tibetans set themselves on fire on Monday, adding to a string of self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule in the troubled region, according to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) and various media reports.

The men were taken by Chinese security forces to a hospital and their condition remains unclear.

TCHRD and Radio Free Asia named the two Tibetans as Lungtok, a monk from the restive Kirti monastery in southwest China, and an ordinary citizen named Tashi.

The self-immolations took place on Monday evening in Ngaba county, Sichuan province. It set off protests and a confrontation at the scene between Tibetans and Chinese police, according to the TCHRD.

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CNN could not confirm the claims, while China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In recent years, self-immolation as a form of protest by Tibetans was first seen in February 2009, when a young monk named Tapey from Kirti monastery set himself ablaze. In March 2011, another young monk named Phuntsog followed in his footsteps, becoming the first monk to die from self-immolation in protest against Chinese rule.

As of August 8, 45 more Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation inside Tibet, 35 of whom have died, according to the International Campaign for Tibet. The incidents on Monday would bring the total number of self-immolations since February 2009 to 48.

Tibetans in exile have also resorted to self-immolation. In March this year, a Tibetan man died after setting himself ablaze in New Delhi during Chinese president Hu Jintao's visit to the city.

Many of the monks who have resorted to self-immolation belonged to the Kirti monastery, which has been a hub for protests against Chinese rule, including the violent uprisings across Tibetan regions on the 2008 anniversary of the 1959 rebellion.

Beijing argues that Tibet has been a part of China since the 13th century, when the Mongol empire, which conquered China and formed the Yuan dynasty, also conquered Tibet. Western and central parts of Tibet are administered by China as the Tibet Autonomous Region, while eastern parts of the region fall under China's Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan and Gansu provinces.

After several decades of de facto independence beginning in 1912, Tibet was invaded by China's People's Liberation Army in 1950 to enforce the newly-formed People's Republic of China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet.

In 1959, thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Dalai Lama's palace in Lhasa — the Tibetan capital -- to protect him against what was rumored to be a plot by the Chinese military to abduct him. The gathering turned into an all-out revolt against Chinese rule, which was suppressed by the PLA. The Dalai Lama fled to India, where he has remained in exile ever since. Tibetans have resisted Chinese rule on and off since then, and many have called for independence.

The Dalai Lama has said that he no longer advocates independence, but rather, genuine autonomy for all ethnic Tibetan areas of China.

The Chinese government maintains that it has improved the Tibetans' standard of living, and accuses the Dalai Lama of inciting the protests in Tibet, calling him a "splittist" and "terrorist."

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