BEIJING (Reuters) - A Tibetan nun in China burnt herself to death on Monday a day after police shot and wounded two Tibetan demonstrators, a group advocating Tibetan self-determination said, the latest protests against Chinese rule of the Himalayan region.
The self-immolation and the protests would appear to signal that anger is growing in Aba prefecture, a mainly ethnic Tibetan part of the southwestern province of Sichuan that has been the centre of defiance of Chinese control.
Rights groups say the unrest could lead to a crackdown in Aba, which erupted in violence in March 2008 when Buddhist monks and other Tibetans loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama, their exiled religious leader, confronted police and troops.
The condition and whereabouts of the two protesters who were shot and wounded, Dawa and Druklo, were not known, the London-based Free Tibet group said.
The Foreign Ministry said it had not heard of the shootings by the police.
“Some organisations with political motives have been spreading rumours and it’s not the first time that (they have used) this practice of misleading the public,” the office of the ministry’s spokesman said in a statement.
“We hope everyone treats such information with caution.”
On Monday, a 20-year-old nun, Tenzin Wangmo, set fire to herself outside a nunnery in the same region, the ninth self-immolation this year in Tibetan parts of China, Free Tibet said.
The nun had called for religious freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama as she set herself alight, the Free Tibet group said.
Her death comes seven months after a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Phuntsog, 21, from the restive Kirti monastery, burnt himself to death. As a result, security forces detained about 300 monks for a month.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin last week criticised the Dalai Lama for not only failing to denounce the self-immolations but for playing them up and even asking people to “follow the example”.
He did not mention the Dalai Lama on Tuesday but said: “We believe that promoting and encouraging harm to life is immoral.”
Nine ethnic Tibetans, eight of them from Aba prefecture, have burnt themselves since March to protest against religious controls by the Chinese government, which labels the Dalai Lama a violent separatist.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama denies the accusation and says he wants autonomy and not independence for Tibet.
The state news agency Xinhua said, citing officials from Aba’s religious affairs bureau, said exiles were being the self-immolation attempts.
“(They) showed signs of having been instigated by a clique jockeying for power in the overseas Tibetan community under the Dalai Lama”, the news agency said.
Xinhua report quoted bureau head Song Tendargye as saying that the Tibetan community in Aba was “disgusted” that a former “living Buddha” of the Kirti monastery in Aba had led prayer services for those who had attempted self-immolation.
Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement late on Monday her group had “grave concerns that greater force may be deployed if protests spread”.
China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Communist troops marched in in 1950.
But it rejects the criticism of rights groups and exiled Tibetans, saying its rule has bought much needed development to a poor and backward region.
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Huang Yan and Chris Buckley, Editing by Robert Birsel