A Chinese expert on Tibet has accused religious leaders close to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of using extremist teachings to push Buddhist monks in China to set fire to themselves.
Nine monks and two nuns have set themselves on fire in ethnically Tibetan parts of southwest China this year to protest religious repression. Many were from the Kirti monastery in Sichuan province.
The state-run Xinhua news agency has published an article by Beijing-based Tibetologist Hua Zi, who describes self-immolation as an extreme act of violence and terrorism.
The report quotes the head of a local Aba district religious bureau as saying a high-ranking monk from Kirti, who fled to India in 1959 with the Dalai Lama, had encouraged the desperate acts of protest. The monk has not been named.
But the exiled head Lama of the Kirti monastery, Kirti Rinpoche, told VOA's Tibetan service by phone Friday that exiled Tibetan leaders never try to create influence. He added that when Chinese officials cannot find any proof they say whatever they like.
The Dalai Lama told the BBC last week that acts of self-immolation were "courageous" but not wise because they only provoke a tougher response by the Chinese government. He denied Beijing's allegations that he encourages such acts.
In the interview, he told the British broadcaster that the Tibetans are using the desperate measure because "they know while the West has backed the Arab Spring, with China it talks with a much quieter voice."
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of using religious repression and of eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
China rejects the criticism claiming Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and the government is investing in developing their areas.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.