A young Tibetan monk tried to set himself on fire in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan on Monday while holding a photograph of the Dalai Lama, AsiaNews said, citing sources in the Tibetan government in exile in India.

It said the monk, who was identified as Kalsang and believed to be either 17 or 18, set himself on fire at the "fruit and vegetable market in the town of Ngaba, Sichuan Province," the Catholic missionary news agency said.

"As he burned, Kalsang, 17 or 18 years old, was holding a photograph of the Dalai Lama and calling for rights and religious freedom in Tibet. The police put out the flames, but the conditions of the young monk from Kirti are still unknown," it added.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He later founded the government in exile in Dharamshala after being offered refuge by India.

China vilifies him as a "separatist" who incites violence in Tibet, while he insists his sole focus is a peaceful campaign for greater autonomy for his homeland.

"It is tragic that a fifth monk has set fire to himself in Tibet this year," said Stephanie Bridgen, director of Free Tibet to AsiaNews.

"A growing number of Tibetans clearly feel that this is the only way that they can be heard. This is an extremely worrying and absolutely unprecedented trend that we hope will end," Bridgen said.

"The international community must help stop this shocking trend by showing Tibetans that there is a determination to protect and promote the rights of Tibetans in Tibet and a road map for doing so."

Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by the country's majority Han ethnic group.

China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved with billions in Chinese investment.