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11th Tibetan Self Immolates in Anti-China Protest

Palden Chetso

A Tibetan woman has set herself on fire – eleventh Tibetan since March – in desperate protests in the face of hardening Chinese repression.

Palden Chetso, the 35-year-old nun of Takar Geden Choeling nunnery in Kham Dawu country of Kandze of eastern Tibet (Chinese: Ganzi, Sichuan Province), called for the long life of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet when she set herself on fire. She is reported to have died at the scene.

Last week, a Tibetan monk set himself on fire to protest China's tight grip over religious practices in Tibet. At least five monks and two nuns have died in the self-immolations, Tibetan rights groups say.

Tensions have bristled in eastern Tibet since the March protest and the later disappearance of some 300 monks whom witnesses said were rounded up by authorities and taken to undisclosed locations. Beijing acknowledged the disappearances in June, saying the detained monks were undergoing "legal education."

Pro-Tibet activists held a Global Day of Action yesterday in major cities around the world demanding that the increasing self immolations over the past month be addressed at Thursday's G-20 summit in Cannes.

In Washington Wednesday, the head of the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, Lobsang Sangay, urged the United States to press China for access to the region to investigate the incidents and the crackdown.

He also denied Chinese accusations that his exile administration has encouraged the self-immolations.

Sangay said the immolations demonstrate the failure of Chinese policies in Tibet, where the Beijing government has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure projects in a bid to win over a sometimes restive population.

He also affirmed that the protesting monks and nuns were acting to demand greater freedom of religion and the return to China of the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India.

Sangay has taken over the political leadership of the Tibetan exile movement from the Dalai Lama, who announced this year that he will restrict himself to his role as a spiritual leader. China denounces the Dalai Lama as a “splittist” who seeks independence for Tibet, though the Dalai Lama has consistetly pressed for "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet through bilateral resolution process to preserve its culture and religion.

The U.S. State Department last month said that Washington is concerned about recent self-immolation of Tibetan monks, and the clear anger and frustration this trend represents. Washington has repeatedly urged China to respect Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity.

China routinely rejects such warnings, calling them an interference in its internal affairs.

The Dalai Lama fled into India in 1959 and has lived in exile for more than 50 years after fleeing a failed revolt against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Tibetans have long sought greater freedom from Beijing's rule, with some seeking complete independence and others wanting greater autonomy within China.

The immolations that have taken place mark a dramatic escalation in the tactics opposing Beijing’s rule, and the Chinese government has been very critical of the actions.