Two young Tibetans in a remote area of northwest China set themselves alight, state media and a rights group said Thursday, in the latest such protest against Chinese rule.
The men, both in their 20s, set themselves on fire Wednesday in Qinghai province’s Chenduo county after leaving a letter calling for solidarity among Tibetans, the London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.
The official Xinhua news agency confirmed the incident, quoting local authorities as saying one man – allegedly a migrant carpenter from neighbouring Sichuan – was “seriously injured” and still unconscious.
The other victim, a herder, died, it added.
The report said authorities did not provide names or ages for the two, but Free Tibet identified them as Nyawang Norpal, 22, and Tenzin Kaldrup, 24, who died at the scene.
A local government official reached by AFP declined to comment while the Yushu prefecture police and government – which administers the area – could not be reached.
Radio Free Asia reported that the two carried Tibetan flags and called for independence for Tibet as well as the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. It said one of the men, whose name it gave as Tenzin Khedup, was a former monk.
Since March last year, at least 40 people have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China in protest at repressive government policies, according to activists.
Last week in Qinghai – where a large number of Tibetans live – a middle-aged Tibetan man died after setting himself ablaze.
On May 27, two men set themselves on fire in front of the Jokhang temple, a renowned centre for Buddhist pilgrimage in the centre of Lhasa – the capital of the Tibet region. It was the first such incident to hit the city.
Tibetans have long chafed under China’s rule over the vast Himalayan plateau, saying that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country’s main ethnic group.
Beijing, however, says that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China’s economic expansion.