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Report says teenage Tibetan in Sichuan sets self on fire and dies; third immolation in 3 days
BEIJING (AP) ' A Tibetan teenager in Sichuan province died after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese oppression in Tibet, the third such self-immolation in three days, a U.S.-based broadcaster said.
Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported that an 18-year-old identified only as Dorje set himself ablaze Monday near a local government office in Jia township, in Sichuan's Aba prefecture.
It quoted Kanyag Tsering, a Tibetan monk exiled in India with contacts in Tibet, as saying he shouted "slogans against Chinese policies in Tibet" before he set himself on fire and died on the spot.
An official with the Communist Party propaganda office in Aba said he hadn't received any notice of an immolation. He refused to give his name and referred calls to the provincial propaganda department, where phones rang unanswered.
The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet also reported Dorje's death.
Radio Free Asia reported earlier that a 20-year-old female student set herself on fire and died Saturday in Gansu province, and a 32-year-old woman with four young children died after immolating in Aba on Sunday.
This is a sensitive time for Tibet, and for all of China. China's annual legislative session, a time when security is tightened across the country, began Monday. March is also when Tibetans mark significant anniversaries, including that of the unsuccessful 1959 revolt that caused Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to flee, and deadly anti-government riots that rocked the Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2008.
More than two dozen Tibetans, including several teenagers, have set themselves on fire in China over the last year, protesting China's suppression of their religion and culture and calling of the return of the Dalai Lama.
At least 10 were monks or former monks from the Kirti monastery in Aba, according to a tally from the International Campaign for Tibet.
A man at the management office of the Kirti monastery in Aba county said Tuesday that he had heard rumors of immolations Monday and Sunday.
"The control here is too tight. It is not convenient for you and me to talk like this. If you need to know more, come down here and see for yourself," he said and hung up.
Tibetan areas are mostly off-limits to foreign media and it was not possible to immediately confirm the claims.
An Associated Press reporter who managed to visit Aba last week saw soldiers with helmets, rifles, sticks and shields march in rows along the town's main road and police scanning license plates and faces of passengers for unwelcome visitors.
Locals said authorities were making random checks of school dormitory rooms for books that go against the ruling Communist Party establishment.
The Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, said in an emailed statement Monday that a 19-year-old monk from Kirti who immolated in February, Rigzin Dorjee, had died in a hospital. It didn't say when he passed away.
The statement also said that Lobsang Kunchok, another Kirti monk who set himself on fire in September, was being verbally abused and beaten by staff in the hospital where he is being treated. It said Kunchok, 18, had his arms and legs amputated and was being fed through a tube.
"We call on the Chinese government to allow those injured from self-immolations to get proper medical treatment," it said. "We are deeply troubled by reports of such cruel treatment of fellow human beings."
The statement didn't say where Kunchok was being treated.
China says it treats minority groups such as Tibetans fairly, and pours tens of billions of dollars into improving living conditions in their areas. The government has also accused the Dalai Lama and overseas Tibetans of being behind the protests and self-immolations.