State media confirmed Sunday that two former Tibetan monks set themselves on fire in far western China, in what an activist group said was the latest in a series of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.
The official Xinhua News Agency said a 22-year-old man set himself on fire at a crossroads in Aba prefecture in Sichuan province on Friday and was hospitalized with serious burns. It said another man burned himself to death in a hotel room on the same day. Both of the men were former monks, it said.
A staffer at the Aba county government office reached by phone Sunday said she had no immediate information about the cases. Phone calls to the county police station rang unanswered.
The London-based group Free Tibet earlier said the men were protesting tight Chinese control over Tibetan life and culture.
At least 14 monks, nuns and former monks are now believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year, mostly in traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan that have been hotbeds of opposition to central government control.
Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for most of that time.
China routinely blames supporters of the Dalai Lama for encouraging acts of opposition. Xinhua cited a Tibetan expert as saying "the Dalai Lama clique" had "instigated and enticed" the two men to set themselves on fire Friday.
The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile say they oppose all violence.