1 dead in pair of self-immolations in Tibet

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Two Tibetan men set themselves on fire on a well-known market street in downtown Lhasa Sunday afternoon, leaving one dead and the other seriously injured.

Dargye, from Aba county in the Tibetan area of southwest China's Sichuan province, and Tobgye Tseten, from Xiahe county in a Tibetan community of the country's northwestern Gansu province, attempted the self-immolations at 2:16 p.m. on Pargor Street in the heart of Lhasa, the publicity department of Tibet's regional committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said in a press release early Monday.

It said police on patrol put out the flames in two minutes and sent the men to hospital. Tobgye Tseten died and Dargye survived with injuries.

As of midnight, Dargye's condition was stable and he was able to talk, according to the official statement.

These were the first cases of self-immolation in the capital of the southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, though a spate of similar incidents have occurred in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces over the past year.

The incident was settled quickly and order was restored and chaos avoided, the document said.

Downtown Lhasa is particularly crowded these days as Tibetans celebrate the Saga Dawa, which falls on the 15th day of the 4th month in the Tibetan calendar and marks the anniversary of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.

Large crowds of pilgrims walk clockwise around Pargor Street in observance of Buddhist ritual.

A senior official in Tibet condemned the Lhasa self-immolations on Sunday, saying they were separatist attempts.

"They were a continuation of the self-immolations in other Tibetan areas and these acts were all aimed at separating Tibet from China," Hao Peng, secretary of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Tibet Committee, said Sunday.

Lhasa's public security bureau has set up a special task force to investigate the case.

More than 20 Tibetans have died from self-immolations since March 2011. Most of them were lamas, nuns or former members of the clergy, according to Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet autonomous region.

The majority of self-immolations took place in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces. Investigators found that in many cases photos of the designated self-immolators had been sent in advance to separatist forces abroad, indicating that the self-immolations had been carefully planned.

After the tragedies, separatist forces would immediately publish these photos alongside pictures of the self-immolation scenes to play up the situation.

Premier Wen Jiabao said at a press conference after the conclusion of the annual parliamentary session in mid-March that China opposes Tibetan clergy to take such radical moves of self-immolations to disturb and undermine social harmony.

"The young Tibetans are innocent and we feel deeply distressed by their behaviors," Wen said, adding the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala of India is in nature a theocratic one, both under the direct control of Dalai Lama or under his indirect influence.

"Its purpose is to separate Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas from China. We have a firm position and principle on this matter," said the premier.

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