The India-based administration of Tibetan exiles is citing "unconfirmed reports" that more Tibetans in areas under Chinese control have self-immolated in protest against Beijing's policies. The apparent immolations are the latest sign of spreading unrest.
Tibetan Exile Administration Cabinet Minister and spokeswoman Dicki Chhoyang says the reported immolations took place on Friday, in Serthar, a Tibetan area of China's Sichuan province. "Unconfirmed reports state that three Tibetans were involved, two of them aged in the 60s and 30s respectively," he noted. "All three have sustained injuries, but their exact condition and whereabouts remain unknown."
Now as many as 19 Tibetans, mainly Buddhist monks and nuns living under Chinese control, have lit themselves on fire in the past year in protest. "These actions convey a message which cannot be ignored. They represent an emphatic rejection of the continued occupation of Tibet and repressive policies of the Chinese government," Chhoyang said.
China occupied Tibet in 1950. In the decades since, Beijing says it has brought modernity and development to the region. Tibetans say China is systematically flooding the region with non-Tibetan Chinese, who they say often discriminate against Tibetans in matters of governance and employment. They demand the return of spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who crossed into India in 1959.
China has responded to the series of recent self-immolations by calling those who burn themselves terrorists. Authorities also have accused the Dalai Lama and the exile government of supporting the acts. Exile Tibetan leaders deny the charge.
Spokeswoman Choyyang says there are now reports of a build-up of Chinese security forces in central Lhasa and the three key monasteries -- Ganden, Sera and Drepung.
Tibetan exiles say at least six peaceful protesters have been shot to death in recent weeks. Beijing acknowledges killing one Tibetan, but refers to the protesters as well trained and organized "mobs" who have attacked security forces.
Choyyang says tensions are likely to escalate unless Beijing addresses the concerns of the protesters. "With Tibetan New Year, on February 22 and the March 10 anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising coming up, we fear there will be further bloodshed and loss of lives," he stated.
The elected prime minister of the global Tibetan exile community, Lobsang Sangay, has called for a worldwide vigil to protest what he calls China's "gruesome acts" and says the United Nations should send a fact finding committee to the region.