Tibetans in exile have gathered at a monastery in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala to mark the fifth anniversary of the first self-immolation against Chinese rule.
Members of five Tibetan NGOs held a prayer and released a statement Thursday to express gratitude and respect to all Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives for the Tibetan cause.
Mewu Kongyam, leader of the Gu Chu Sum
, an organization of former political prisoners, called on the international community to send an independent body to check the real situation in the historically Tibetan areas of China.
"We are calling on the United Nations, international human rights organizations and international media to send an independent team to investigate the situation in Tibet as soon as possible because the situation in Tibet is reaching a critical point," he said.
A Tibetan man named Tapey died after setting himself on fire on February 27, 2009. Since then, more than 120 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest what they say is Chinese repression of their culture. Beijing denies the charge and says the suicide protests are acts of terrorism.
The most recent self-immolation took place earlier this month in a historically Tibetan area of China's Sichuan province.
The Tibetan administration in Dharamsala has urged Tibetans not to take such drastic action, and the U.S. government has called on China to resolve the Tibetan issue with a resumption of dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama.
(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.)