China says Premier Wen Jiabao has told a Beijing-installed Tibetan cleric to use his influence to instill patriotism and support for Beijing among Tibetans in southwestern China.
The official Xinhua news agency said Mr. Wen's directive was delivered Friday in a meeting with the Panchen Lama. It said the premier asked the Tibetan to "further his research" into Tibetan Buddhist doctrine, "so as to lead the Buddhist lamas and followers in loving the country" and abiding by its laws. Mr. Wen is also quoted as saying "greater efforts will be made" to protect the Tibetan region's cultural traditions and freedoms.
The meeting comes as Tibetan exile groups report two more self-immolations this week by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule in the region, and the deaths of two men shot and killed while fleeing police after participating in anti-Chinese demonstrations.
The self-immolations in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces are thought to be the 20th and 21st by Buddhist monks, nuns or their supporters since last year.
Witness statements in exile media say at least nine people have either been killed by police or died by self-immolation since a young monk at a Sichuan monastery set himself on fire and died in March 20011.
Lobsang Sangay, the head of the Tibetan exile government, said this week he has received reports that hundreds of convoys of heavily armed Chinese security forces are flooding the region ahead of Tibetan New Year celebrations set for February 22.
Sangay spoke ahead of a meeting in northern India between South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. After the meeting in Dharamsala, the South African called on Beijing to "allow Tibet to be what the constitution of the People's Republic permits ... autonomy."