Two Tibetan teenagers have died after staging self-immolation protests in China's Sichuan province, highlighting the human rights plight of the new generation of Tibetans born under Chinese rule, sources inside Tibet and exile leaders said Wednesday.
Rinchen, 17, and Sonam Dargye, 18, set themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's Dzoege (Ruo'ergai) county on Tuesday night, the sources said.
Both died on the spot and their bodies have been taken home by their families.
"The two boys were residents of Kyangtsa town and they died in the protest against Chinese policy in Tibet," Tibetan monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi said from India's hill town Dharamsala where they live in exile, citing local contacts.
"It is not clear what they specifically demanded before they succumbed to their burns," they said.
Rinchen and Sonam Dargye were elementary school classmates in Kyangtsa.
Twenty of the 104 Tibetans who have self-immolated so far were 18 years old or under that age, according to figures compiled by the International Campaign for Tibet advocacy group.
The self-immolations by the new generation of Tibetans born under Chinese rule “are sending an unequivocal message to the world about the gravity of the situation in Tibet,” said Dicki Chhoyang, Minister of Information and International Relations in the Dharamsala-based Tibetan exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration.
She told a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of the 2013 UN Human Rights Council session that China must be held accountable to the pledges it made to the world body to improve its human rights record.
More than 80 of the Tibetan self-immolators who have protested against Chinese rule and called for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have died in the burnings.
“What we hear are numbers, but behind each number there are really people like you and me,” Dicki Chhoyang said.
She then read a short message left behind by Nangdrol, an 18-year-old boy, who self-immolated on Feb. 19 last year and died.
He wrote, “We are unable to remain under these draconian laws, unable to tolerate this torment that does not leave a scar, because the pain of not enjoying any basic human rights is far greater than the pain of self-immolation,” Dicki Chhoyang said.
She charged that the self-immolations in Tibet were fueled by "China’s political repression, economic marginalisation, environmental destruction and cultural assimilation."
The latest self-immolation protests by the two teenagers "show that despite China’s recent crackdown, this form of protest is likely to remain a feature of the Tibetan response to Chinese occupation in 2013," said Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group.
"It also highlights the plight of Tibet’s children, who face all the challenges of life under oppression, and are often full participants in the struggle to resist it," she said.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has published a “list of issues to be taken up” with China following hearings in Geneva two weeks ago in which the country's record on protecting the rights of children was scrutinized, according to Free Tibet.
Evidence of 'abuses'
The panel had also considered a Free Tibet report, which included evidence about Tibetan self-immolations involving those under 18 and other "abuses" of children’s rights, it said.
"The committee has demanded that China answers whether it has 'conducted a thorough and independent inquiry' into self-immolations of children in Tibet and asks what the state has done to 'identify the reasons for such desperate acts by children and prevent future ones,' Free Tibet said.
The panel had also demanded information about the use of "excessive force against peaceful demonstrations, arrest and arbitrary detention of children, and abuse of their religious freedom and language rights in Tibet."
Beijing has defended its rule of Tibet and says the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders in exile have orchestrated the self-immolations from their base in India.
But Tibetan exile leaders deny involvement in the burnings and have called on Tibetans in Tibet to exercise restraint.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.