BEIJING — A Tibetan nun died after setting herself on fire in southwest China, the first woman known to have self-immolated in the region, the Free Tibet campaign group said.
Free Tibet said Tenzin Wangmo, 20, called for religious freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama as she set herself on fire on Monday, in the latest protest against perceived repression in the area.
She died in Sichuan province’s Aba town, home to a Buddhist monastery that has been the scene of repeated protests, said Free Tibet, which also reported that security forces shot two Tibetans during a weekend protest in Sichuan.
The latest incident takes the number of people reported to have set themselves on fire in the area this year to nine and Free Tibet said the protests appeared to be widening.
“Information from Tibet suggests there are more who are willing to give their lives determined to draw global attention to the persistent and brutal violations Tibetans suffer under Chinese occupation,” the group said in a statement.
“The acts of self-immolation are not taking place in isolation, protests have been reported in the surrounding region and calls for wider protests are growing.”
Free Tibet identified the two Tibetans who were shot on Sunday as Dawa and Druklo and said one was shot in the leg, the other in the torso. No further details of the incident were immediately available.
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they see as growing domination by the country’s majority Han ethnic group, and Aba’s Kirti monastery has become a flashpoint for the mounting anger at the erosion of their culture.
China says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly over the years, thanks to billions of dollars in Chinese investment.
The death in March of a young monk at Kirti named Phuntsog who set himself on fire on the third anniversary of anti-government unrest in the area sparked protests and the monastery was sealed off by police.
Phuntsog was the second monk at Kirti to set himself on fire since the anti-Chinese riots in Lhasa of March 2008, the bloodiest in Tibet in 20 years.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said he was just 16 years old at the time of his death, though reports at the time varied and rights groups put his age at 20 or 21.
The number of monks at the monastery has fallen to about 600 from 2,500 in March due to “compulsory patriotic re-education, detentions and expulsions,” Free Tibet has said previously, citing sources in the region.
Last month, China jailed three monks for between 10 and 13 years for helping Phuntsog burn himself to death, raising criticism from the United States and rights groups.