The head of the Tibetan Central Administration is urging the United States to press China for access to areas where 10 Tibetan Buddhists have set themselves on fire.
Lobsang Sangay, who was elected this year as prime minister of the India-based exile movement, said in Washington on Wednesday the United States should seek permission for an international delegation to visit the area to investigate the reasons for the self-immolations. He said reporters should also be allowed into the area.
Sangay, who has been meeting with U.S. lawmakers, denied Chinese charges that his government has encouraged the self-immolations.
But he said the nine Buddhist monks and one nun made clear they were acting to demand greater freedom of religion and the return to China of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Seven of the 10 self-immolations have occurred in Sichuan province bordering Tibet, near the Kirti monastery which has been the scene of repeated anti-Chinese protests and a heightened Chinese security presence. At least five of the 10 died of their injuries.
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 an often restive population.
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 denies it.