A Tibetan monk died Monday after setting himself on fire calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader condemned by Beijing as a separatist, a rights group said.
The death, confirmed by China's official Xinhua news agency, occurred in an ethnic Tibetan area of Sichuan province known as Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
According to the London-based Free Tibet rights group, the 29-year-old monk called Tsewang Norbu from Nyitso monastery doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze while shouting "Long live the Dalai Lama" before he died.
The death comes just days after China-designated Panchen Lama, the second ranking spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism, toured the region under heavy Chinese police protection.
The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since a 1959 failed uprising against Chinese rule, originally selected another young man named Gendun Choekyi Nyima to become the 11th Panchen Lama. But the youth was arrested by Chinese police in 1995 at age 6 and has not been heard from since. Many Tibetans oppose Beijing's designee installed by the Chinese government.
The remote region where Monday's death occurred and other Tibetan parts of Sichuan have seen repeated protests against the government.
This is the second reported self-immolation this year in this area of Sichuan. In March, a 21 year old monk Phuntsog of Kirti monastery set himself on fire and died near Kirti Monastery in Aba county in apparent protest against the government. The self-immolation triggered a street protest of nearly a thousand monks and lay people against government controls on the restive region prompting an immediate crackdown on the monastery.
In April, Chinese authorities seized more than 300 protesting monks from Kriti monastery and weeks later admitted subjecting them to "legal education" at undisclosed locations.
The United Nations Working group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances protested the detentions, accusing Beijing of involvement in "enforced disappearances." But Beijing brushed off the U.N. protest, and instead urged critics to adopt a "fair perspective" on government efforts in the region.