China says a former Tibetan monk has died after he and another man set themselves on fire in southwestern China - the latest in more than a dozen self-immolations by Tibetan Buddhists in the region in less than a year.
The Xinhua news agency, in a report Sunday, said the incidents occurred Friday in Sichuan province near the flashpoint Kirti monastery. The report said an 18-year-old died after setting himself ablaze in a hotel room near the monastery, shortly after another man was hospitalized after a similar incident at a nearby crossroads. It said the man at the crossroads survived and later admitted the two incidents were planned together.
At least 14 Tibetan Buddhists have set themselves on fire in the province in the past 10 months, since a young monk protesting Chinese rule died after self-immolating outside the monastery in March. That death sparked months of protests by monks and nuns and triggered a major Chinese crackdown that included the arrests and disappearances of hundreds of monks.
China insists the self-immolations were carried out by lawbreakers. Sunday, Xinhua quoted local authorities as saying the burnings were carried out by people who had "previously been punished for their wrongdoings, such as visiting prostitutes, gambling, burglary or deep debt."
The U.S. State Department in November urged Beijing to address its "counter-productive policies" in Tibetan areas of Sichuan province. A spokeswoman said China's policies have created tensions which threaten the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP.