BEIJING (AP) — A former Buddhist monk in Tibet has been hospitalized after setting himself on fire, the latest in a series of apparent self-immolation protests against Chinese rule, a human rights group said.
Most of the protesters who set themselves on fire are calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said Tenzin Phuntsog, a former monk in his 40s, set himself on fire Thursday. The attempted self-immolation reportedly occurred near the Karma monastery in Tibet's Chamdo region.
The group cited exiled Tibetans in India whom it did not identify by name.
A woman who answered the telephone at the propaganda office of the Chamdo regional Communist Party denied the incident occurred.
"Nobody self-immolated. Nothing like that happened in Chamdo," said the woman who would not give her name.
If confirmed, at least 12 monks, nuns, and former monks have now set themselves on fire this year in what are seen as acts of desperation in the face of tightening Chinese controls over Tibetan life and culture. All but the latest occurred in heavily Tibetan areas of China's Sichuan province.
China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.
Chinese authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression, although they have confirmed some self-immolations and accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging such acts. The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India say they oppose all violence.