Two youths in a Tibetan region of southwestern Sichuan province set fire to themselves on Friday in the latest in a string of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule, sources with links to the region said.
At least one of the monks is believed to have died. So far, seven Tibetans have set themselves alight this year in a bid to highlight Tibetan human rights abuses.
"On Oct. 7 around 11.30 a.m. two more Tibetans burnt themselves in the streets of Ngaba county town and protested against Chinese rule," said Dharamsala-based monk Kanyak Tsering, who is in close contact with Ngaba's Kirti monastery.
The monastery has seen a huge security crackdown and a number of self-immolation protests in recent months. Hundreds of monks have also been taken away by Chinese security forces.
"They folded their hands in supplicatory gestures and shouted protests against Chinese rule," Tsering said.
They folded their hands in supplicatory gestures and shouted protests against Chinese rule.
Kanyak Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi, both monks at Kirti's sister monastery in northern India, named the two youths as Chophel, 19, of the Gongma Juri family, and Khaying, 18, from the Thawa Gongma Songpo family.
They said police arrived at the scene and tried to extinguish the fire, beating the protesters hard as they did so, and taking them to the Ngaba County People's Hospital.
"Even as they were being dragged, Khaying was seen raising his fist in the air and shouting," Kanyak Tsering said. Khaying's condition was still unknown on Friday evening.
However, Kanyak Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi said Chophel had died at noon on Friday.
"Later some close relatives of Chophel learned that he [Chophel] succumbed to his injuries and died around noon local time," Kanyak Tsering said.
Both young men had previously spent time as monks at Kirti, but had later left the monastery to lead a layperson's life, the Dharamsala-based monks said.
Khaying is the nephew of Ngaba resident Tashi, who was sentenced to death by Chinese authorities for his involvement in the 2008 mass protest in the Kirti region.
Exile Tibetan media also reported the incident.
"Two Tibetan youths suddenly appeared in Ngaba county town on Oct. 7 close to noon, shouting slogans," the Tibetan-language Tibet Express newspaper reported from Dharamsala.
According to the paper, the monks shouted: "Tibet has no freedom! We have no human rights! Invite the Dalai Lama back to Tibet!" and "All Tibetans should return."
It said one protester had died immediately and the second was seen to be "severely burned and may not survive."
Recent self-immolations by desperate Tibetan monks from Ngaba and elsewhere in Tibetan regions of Sichuan signal an alarming trend and highlight unrelenting Chinese actions to curb religious rights, according to human rights groups and experts.
Last Monday, a Tibetan monk from Kirti set himself on fire this year in the fifth such protest this year.
Three other monks from Kirti monastery had set themselves ablaze earlier in a trend that began in March this year and that led to a security crackdown on the monastery. According to Free Tibet, only one monk in Tibet was known to have set fire to himself before this year.
Chinese police and military personnel had then moved in to occupy Kirti monastery, and exile sources say that around 2,000 of its monks now live elsewhere.
Chinese authorities frequently carry out "political re-education" of Tibetan monks, who are put under pressure to renounce their allegiance to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and pledge loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
International rights groups have called on Beijing to review its Tibetan policies to halt the worrying trend of self-immolation, which has now been taken up by laypeople.
Suicide is seen as the worst form of killing and goes against all the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, experts said.
The London-based Free Tibet group said earlier this week that China's response to the string of self-immolations has been a “failure.”
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping—the likely successor to President Hu Jintao, who must retire from running the Party in late 2012 and from the presidency in early 2013—visited Tibet in July to preside over celebrations marking 60 years since China gained control over the region.
Xi, in his first major speech on Tibet, vowed to crack down on "separatist activity" in the region and suggested that he will not ease Beijing's hard-line stance.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.