Monk held after eight Tibetans set themselves on fire

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POLICE have detained a monk and his nephew in China’s Sichuan province and accused them of instigating the self- immolations of eight ethnic Tibetans on the instructions of the Dalai Lama and his followers.

The report in the official Xinhua News Agency did not detail evidence of the exiled Buddhist spiritual leader’s involvement – which was denied by the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India.

The report cited a police statement as saying that confessions and an investigation showed that the detained monk, Lorang Konchok, 40, from Kirti Monastery in Sichuan’s Aba county, kept in frequent contact with supporters of the Dalai Lama overseas and had recruited eight volunteers for self-immolations since 2009, telling them they would be “heroes.” Three of the protesters died, the report said.

The monk’s nephew, Lorang Tsering, 31, helped recruit volunteers and also was arrested, the report said.

Activists say more than 90 ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in dramatic protests against authoritarian Chinese rule. Chinese officials have called the protests “cruel and inhuman” and sought to blame them on the Dalai Lama and other instigators, while activists call them expressions of desperation over oppression. The Dalai Lama has said he opposes all violence.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India, said it “strongly denied” any involvement by its representatives or the Dalai Lama.

“We believe that [the suspects]have been forced to make these confessions,” spokesman Lobsang Choedak said. “We would welcome the Chinese government investigating whether we are instigating these immolations.”