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2 Tibetans Dead After Self-Immolation Protests

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Tibetan sources tell VOA that two Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire in the western Chinese province of Qinghai in the latest self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.

The sources with contacts in the region told VOA's Tibetan service that Kabum Gyal, 18,and Dangzin Dolma, 23, set themselves alight on Thursday in separate parts of Tongren county, known in Tibetan as Rebkong. They said the two died at the scene of their protests and do not appear to be related.

Thursday's incidents raise the number of self-immolations in Tongren to six since November 7. The county has seen a heavy Chinese police presence in recent weeks. Large crowds of Tibetans have gathered in the area this week to say prayers for the protesters.

China's official Xinhua news agency confirmed the death of the male protester, but gave his age as 14 and identified him by a different name - Karpongya. It said an investigation into the incident is under way. Xinhua did not say anything about the female protester.

Tibetan sources have reported 74 self-immolation protests in Tibetan regions of China since 2009, with 60 cases known to have resulted in death.

Many Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of repressing their religion and culture. China says Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and benefit from better living standards linked to Chinese investment in underdeveloped Tibetan regions.

Beijing has accused exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of inciting the self-immolations to promote Tibetan separatism. Speaking on a visit to Japan on Monday, the Dalai Lama said China must conduct a "serious investigation" into the self-immolations rather than placing the blame on him.

Article by Michael Lipin, VOA News