BEIJING (AFP) - Two Tibetans in southwest China stood trial for murder on Saturday for allegedly inciting others to self-immolate, state media said, as authorities aim to crack down on this form of protest.
Lorang Konchok, 40, and his nephew Lorang Tsering, 31, "were accused of intentional homicide" for urging eight people to set themselves on fire, three fatally, the Xinhua news agency reported.
It cited a statement from the court in Aba prefecture in Sichuan province, where many immolations have taken place.
Nearly 100 Tibetans have carried out such acts since 2009 in protest against the Chinese government, which blames the acts instead on separatist forces and the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.
Authorities last month instructed judicial bodies to charge those aiding or abetting self-immolators with murder and began arresting alleged suspects.
Prosecutors accused Lorang Konchok of encouraging two Tibetans to set themselves on fire in March - both fatally - and of working with the media liaison team of a Tibet-independence group linked to the Dalai Lama.
When told in August by Lorang Tsering that a third man named Jokba sought to set himself alight, Lorang Konchok also allegedly sought to "strengthen Jokba's desire", Xinhua said, citing prosecutors.
"Lorang Konchok recorded Jokba's information, took pictures for Jokba with his mobile phone and promised to spread news of the self-immolation deeds overseas as well as convey Jokba's last words to family members," it said.
Jokba carried out the act and died the next day, Xinhua said, adding that five others were unsuccessfully recruited by both suspects to self-immolate.
Some Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.
The UK-based advocacy group Free Tibet last week expressed concern that immolation-related arrests could lead to abuse in prison while protests continue.