A Tibetan man has died after setting himself on fire in protest at China’s rule of the Himalayan region, a rights group and overseas media said, the first self-immolation this year.
The man burned himself to death at about 1pm (0500 GMT) on Saturday, London-based Free Tibet and US-based Radio Free Asia said, in what is thought to be the first self-immolation since December 8.
The immolation happened in Xiahe, a county in western China’s Gansu province known as Sangchu in Tibetan.
The body of the man, who was identified with the single name Tsebe or Tseba, was carried back to his home village about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) away following a protest, Free Tibet said. The rights group said he was aged in his early 20s, while Radio Free Asia said its sources claimed he was 19.
More than 90 ethnic Tibetans, many of them monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire in China since February 2009 to protest against Beijing’s rule in Tibet.
The number of burnings peaked last November in the run-up to the Chinese Communist Party’s set-piece congress, at which Xi Jinping was named the party’s new general secretary in a once-in-a-decade power handover.
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of enacting religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country’s majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
China rejects this, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.
Calls to police and local government officials in Xiahe went unanswered on Sunday.