UPDATED at 3:10 p.m. EST on 2012-06-20
Two young Tibetans self-immolated in China's Qinghai province on Wednesday as they protested against Beijing's rule in Tibetan-populated areas and called for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said.
Carrying Tibetan flags and shouting pro-independence slogans, former monk Tenzin Khedup, 24, and Ngawang Norphel, 22, torched themselves in Dzatoe (in Chinese, Zaduo) township, Tridu (Chenduo) county, in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the exile sources said.
Tenzin Khedup died on the spot while his colleague, Ngawang Norphel was badly burned and is in serious condition at a hospital, according to Lobsang Sangay, a monk in India who is from the Zekar monastery in Yushul, quoting eyewitnesses.
"They called for freedom for Tibet, the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for his long life. Both of them were carrying Tibetan flags in their hands at the time of the self-immolation," he said.
The two also left behind a suicide note saying they were unable to make a significant contribution to fellow Tibetans based on the conditions prevailing under Chinese rule, Sangay said.
"We could not contribute significantly towards the Tibetan religion and culture and we could not [help bring about] economic benefits to Tibetans," the note read, according to Sangay.
"Therefore, we have decided to self-immolate with the hope that His Holiness the Dalai Lama may live long and return to Tibet as soon as possible. For the cause of Tibetans, we chose to die for these reasons.
"We also want to appeal to our fellow youth that they should not quarrel among themselves and they should not have any ill feelings against each other. Everyone should unite to uphold the cause of the Tibetan race and nationality."
The body of Tenzin Khedup has been taken away by monks, who are conducting funeral prayers for him at the Zekar monastery, the sources said.
The latest self-immolations bring to 41 the number of Tibetans who have burned themselves in protest against Chinese rule and to demand the return of the Dalai Lama since the raging protests began in February 2009.
Nearly all the self-immolations so far have taken place in the Tibetan-populated provinces in western China—Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu—as Tibetans challenge Chinese policies which they say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights.
The first self-immolation incident in Tibet's capital Lhasa was reported last month when two young Tibetan men burned themselves in the heavily guarded city, suggesting that the protest movement to restore Tibetan rights is gaining momentum internally.
The Dalai Lama has blamed Beijing's "totalitarian" and "unrealistic" policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.
Chinese authorities however have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the burnings.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.