Two Tibetan monks burned themselves Friday in protest over Chinese rule in troubled Sichuan province's Barkham (in Chinese, Ma'erkang) city before they were bundled into a vehicle and taken away by Chinese security forces, exile sources with local contacts said.
Chinese authorities also prevented a group of monks from traveling to the self-immolation site at the city center, which is the headquarters of the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in an apparent bid to contain any flaring protests, the sources said.
Tenpa Thargyal, 22, and Chime Palden, 21, set themselves alight at around noon after leaving their Gyalrong Tsodun Kirti monastery in Barkham county. The monastery is among the largest in the county and is quite a distance from the restive Kirti monastery, also in Ngaba, from where hundreds of monks had been detained.
“Both of them protested against Chinese rule and they were detained by the Chinese security forces and moved to a hospital," said Kanyag Tsering, a monk in India's hill town Dharamsala, where Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is living in exile.
“When the monks of their monastery learned about the self-immolation, a group of them rushed in three vehicles in a bid to take the two away, but the Chinese security forces detained them and sent them back," he said.
"After the incident, large numbers of armed police and special police were deployed around the prefecture government headquarters, and a strict security blockade enforced."
The condition of Tenpa Thargyal and Chime Palden, both of whom are from Kholachang village in Barkham county's Tsodun township, is not immediately known. Unconfirmed reports said one of them has died in police custody.
Their self-immolations bring to 33 the number of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire since 2009 as Tibetans stepped up their protests against Beijing's rule and called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
The raging protests have resulted in a Chinese security clampdown in Sichuan and the other Tibetan-populated provinces of Qinghai and Ganzi, as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Aside from taking away monks from monasteries, Chinese authorities have jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
The self-immolation Friday came just two days after a monk from the Kirti monastery set himself on fire and died Wednesday in protest against Chinese rule.
Twenty-year-old Lobsang Sherab shouted slogans to highlight Beijing's "discriminatory" policies on Tibetans as he self-immolated in Cha township in Ngaba, Kanyag Tsering said.
The self-immolations have not stopped despite appeals against the practice by Tibetan leaders in exile and community leaders.
The latest call came last month from well-known Tibetan blogger Woeser and senior Tibetan religious leader Arjia Rinpoche, who had said that Tibetans opposed to Chinese rule should instead "stay alive to struggle and push forward" their goals.
Lobsang Sangay, the head of Tibet's exile government in Dharamsala, said that while he strongly discouraged self-immolations, the "fault lies squarely with the hardline leaders in Beijing."
He accused Beijing of attempting over the last half-century "to annihilate the Tibetan people and its culture."
The Chinese government, however, blamed the Dalai Lama for the self-immolations, accusing the 76-year-old Buddhist leader and his followers of plotting to create "turmoil" in Tibetan-inhabited areas.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.