Beijing, Oct 8: The self-immolation spree by Tibetan monks took a dangerous turn with two more monks setting themselves afire in Aba county of China's Sichuan province. At least five monks have set themselves on fire making self-immolation a political tool to shame and fight Chinese authorities.
The official Xinhua news agency confirmed the incident saying the two former monks, 18-year-old Thongan and 20-year-old Tenzin, set themselves on fire. It quoted Aba county spokesman as saying the monks were rescued and were being treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
However, the London based Free Tibet group said it has confirmed reports that one of the monks had died. It said "many more are ready to die" while quoting pamphlets being circulated in the area. The purpose is "to draw global attention to one of the world's greatest and longest-standing human rights crises, no matter what the cost to themselves," it said.
Aba county and the Kirti monastery located in the area has seen a series of protests against what monks regard as forced exile of Buddhist leader Dalai Lama, over the past three years. Last March 21-year old monk Rigzin Phuntsog, died after setting himself on fire. Another town, Ngaba, has seen five teenagers set themselves afire in the two weeks since September 26, the Free Tibet website said.
The Kirti monastery has been under tight guard by security forces since it was raided in April. China has ignored a request from a UN human rights panel to furnish names of 300 monks of the monastery whose whereabouts are not known.
China regards the Dalai Lama, a Nobel laureate, as a subversive "splittist" agitator although the Tibetan leader has said he does not advocate Tibetan independence.
The Free Tibet website said the young monks were wearing layman's clothing at the time of self-immolation attempt. One of them was expelled from the monastery after an earlier attempt at self-immolation while the second one has left the shrine for reasons that are `not known, it said.
"Tibetans are determined that these acts do not go unnoticed," Stephanie Brigden, the director of Free Tibet, said in a statement. Tibetans were sharing news of the self-immolations in online chat rooms and through word of mouth, despite the risk of severe penalties by local Chinese authorities, she said.