China tries to halt wave of Tibetan self-immolations with cash rewards for tipsters

The Associated Press

BEIJING, China - Police in a heavily Tibetan region of far west China are offering tipsters a reward of $7,700 for information about planned self-immolations in a bid to stem a wave of fiery protests against Chinese rule.

Since the notice was issued by police in Gansu province's Gannan prefecture on Sunday, two more local Tibetans, a herdsman and a farmer, died after setting themselves on fire near the Labrang Monastery in Gannan.

Dozens of ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Gansu, Sichuan province, Tibet and other heavily Tibetan regions since March 2011 to protest what activists say is Beijing's heavy-handed rule in the region. Many have called for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader.

Gannan police issued a notice saying that people who tip off police about immolation plans will be rewarded 50,000 yuan. The notice said that people who provide information on the "black hands" who organized four recent self-immolations would be rewarded up to 200,000 yuan ($30,000).

A photo of the written notice was posted to Twitter on Thursday by the Beijing-based Tibetan writer Woeser.

A Gannan police officer who refused to give his name confirmed the details of the announcement. He said that no rewards have been paid out yet and no tips have been reported.

On Monday, a herdsman died in Gannan's Xiahe county near the Labrang Monastery after self-immolating. A day later, a farmer died after immolating on Xiahe's main street.

Labrang Monastery is one of the most important outside of Tibet, and was the site of numerous protests by monks following deadly ethnic violence in Tibet in 2008 that was the most sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.