Tibetan man in China sets self on fire: Reports

BEIJING (AFP) - A Tibetan man in China burnt himself to death on Tuesday, overseas media and a rights group reported, the latest in a string of self-immolation protests in recent years.

Mr Thinley Namgyal, 32, died soon after he set himself alight in Kardze prefecture in Sichuan province, according to British-based advocacy group Free Tibet and the United States-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Mr Namgyal, the youngest son of a semi-nomadic farming family, self-immolated "in protest against Chinese policy and rule" in Tibetan areas, RFA reported, citing a local resident.

It added that mobile phone service and other communication lines to Tawu county, where the incident took place, had since been cut off.

At least 125 Tibetans in China have set themselves alight since 2009, according to Free Tibet and RFA.

The latest incident follows the self-immolation last month of a Tibetan nun who set herself alight while performing a prayer ritual at a monastery in Kardze prefecture.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said in a statement that the self-immolations happen because China "continues to use force to deny them their basic human rights and their fundamental right to determine their own future as a nation".

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader-in-exile, of encouraging self-immolations to further a separatist agenda.

China also says its rule has brought social and economic benefits to Tibetans and ended what it claims were feudal abuses of the population.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate who lives in India, has described the self-immolations as acts of desperation that he is powerless to stop.

Rights groups call the protests a reaction to Beijing's tight control over Tibetans' rights, including the exercise of religion.