Tibetan monk sets self on fire in China: reports

BEIJING (AFP) - A Tibetan monk set himself on fire in northwest China on Thursday, state media said, in what Tibetan media described as a suicide in protest against Chinese policies.

The monk, 43, "committed self-immolation," in Gansu province, which has a heavy ethnic Tibetan population, state-run news service Xinhua said on a social media account.

There have been more than 120 similar acts by Tibetans in China and elsewhere since 2009, most of them fatal.

India-based Tibetan news website Phayul.com reported that the monk, named Mr Tsuiltrim Gyatso, had died after setting himself on fire "to protest the Chinese government".

The website published a photo apparently showing Mr Gyatso's body engulfed in flames, with his skin charred black.

Self-immolations peaked in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party's five-yearly congress last November, but have become less common in recent months. A Tibetan father-of-two set himself on fire in protest earlier this month, US-backed broadcaster Radio Free Asia and a Tibetan rights group reported.

A monk set himself on fire in a Tibetan area of Qinghai province in northwest China last month, reports said.

Two Tibetan monks reportedly died in April after setting themselves on fire at Aba in the southern province of Sichuan.

Beijing condemns the acts and blames them on exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, saying he uses them to further a separatist agenda.

But Tibetans and human rights groups say the protests are a response to Beijing's tight controls on their exercise of religion.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate who has lived in India since 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet, has described the burnings as acts of desperation that he is powerless to stop.

Authorities in Gansu were not immediately available for comment on the latest reports.

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