BEIJING (AP) — Four more ethnic Tibetans have self-immolated to protest Chinese rule and at least 20 were hospitalized after clashing with police in a protest over a government booklet calling the Tibetan language irrelevant, a report and exile groups said Tuesday.
More than 80 Tibetans in China have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against what overseas supporters say is China's strict control over Tibet's Buddhist culture and a suffocating security presence in Tibetan regions.
Four more self-immolations were reported Sunday and Monday in Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces.
At least 20 students were hospitalized Monday after a protest turned violent in Qinghai province's Hainan prefecture, U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia said in an emailed statement that cited Tibetan exile sources who were in touch with Hainan residents. London-based exile group Free Tibet said up to 1,000 students took part in the demonstration.
Radio Free Asia said students were angry over a booklet distributed at Tsolho Medical Institute in Hainan that called Tibetan irrelevant and condemned immolation protests by Tibetans as "acts of stupidity." It said students burned the books in their protest.
Hainan government and police officials referred calls to other departments where the phone rang unanswered on Tuesday.
The broadcaster also quoted anonymous sources inside China's Tibetan areas as saying teenaged nun Sangay Dolmas died from self-immolation on Sunday in Qinghai's Tongren county. On Monday, 18-year-old Kunchok Tsering died after burning himself in Gansu province's Xiahe county while in Sichuan's Seda country a 20-year-old former monk, Wang Gyal, self-immolated though his condition was not immediately known, it said.
Also Monday, in Gansu province's Luqu county, 24-year-old Gonpo Tsering died after setting himself ablaze, the report said.
The Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet said that as of Monday the toll in China's Tibetan areas from self-immolations had reached 84, though the organization's count did not include Gonpo Tsering.
Most of the protesters have doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves alight after shouting slogans calling for Tibetan independence and blessings for the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader. China blames him for encouraging the wave of self-immolations that Beijing has apparently been powerless to stop despite stepped-up security and an extensive spying network.
Independent verification of events and conditions in Tibet is nearly impossible because of restrictions on travel.