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Mother of 3 Dies After Self-Immolating in Southwestern China

Tibetan exiles pray next to the burning funeral pyre of 27-year-old Jamphel Yeshi, who died two days after he immolated himself in Dharmsala, India, March 30, 2012.
Exile groups say a mother of three young children in a largely Tibetan area of southwestern China has died after setting herself on fire, in an apparent protest against Chinese rule.

The protester, identified as a 33-year-old named Rikyo, died Wednesday in front of the Jonang Dzamthang monastery in a prefecture known by Tibetans as Ngaba and located in Sichuan Province.

The head of the Jonang Welfare Association, Tsangyang Gyatso, said in a interview with VOA's Tibetan service that the protester was a neighbor of three young Tibetans who set themselves on fire earlier this year, while demanding the safe return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Tibet Immolation Map
Tibet Immolation Map
The latest death comes as Chinese security forces in the nearby Tibetan Autonomous Region maintain rigid controls over community life in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, following two self-immolation protests Sunday. One of the Lhasa protesters died at the scene, while the other was hospitalized.

Anti-China protests have rocked southwestern China and neighboring Tibet for the past 14 months, as Buddhist monks, nuns and their supporters push their demands for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama.

China says the immolations incite separatism and are directed from outside the country. But representatives of the Dalai Lama, who lives in northern India, say protesters are driven to self-immolate in large part because they can no longer tolerate Beijing's ongoing push against Tibetan culture and religion.

This week's immolations follow a new Chinese move to ban Tibetan Buddhists, including current and former government officials, students, and party members, from engaging in religious practices during the sacred month of Saka Dawa, which began May 21. Saka Dawa commemorates the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.