Tibetan protests increase to mark start of communist congress

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Tibetan protests against Chinese rule have intensified around the opening of the Communist Party congress, as three teenage monks and two other Tibetans set themselves on fire over two days, activists reported yesterday.

Four of the self-immolations took place on Wednesday and were followed by a fifth involving a nomad in western Qinghai yesterday. Since March 2011, dozens of ethnic Tibetans have self-immolated to protest at what activists say is China’s heavy-handed rule over the region. Such protests have become more frequent in recent weeks, apparently aimed at the party’s conference.

“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,” said Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden.

Free Tibet said the three monks, aged 15 and 16, were the youngest to self-immolate. They set fire to themselves outside a police office in south-west ­Sichuan province calling for freedom for Tibet and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The youngest monk, identified as 15-year-old Dorjee, died at the scene and his companions, Samdup and Dorjee Kyab, both 16, were taken to hospital.

That evening a 23-year-old ­Tibetan nomadic woman, Tamdin Tso, died after self-immolating in another ethnically Tibetan area in western Qinghai province, Free Tibet said.

Chinese authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression and have accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging the self-immolations.