An overseas activist group said hundreds of Tibetans joined an anti-Beijing protest in western China after a monk set himself on fire on Wednesday, the latest self-immolation by Tibetans over the suppression of their religion and culture.
London-based Free Tibet said Jamyang Palden, a monk in his 30s, burned himself in Tongren, a monastery town in Qinghai province. It said Palden is believed to have survived and was taken to a hospital, but was brought back to the monastery by monks who feared he would be arrested by Chinese authorities.
It said about 500 monks and other Tibetans gathered in the town square to demonstrate, with some holding up images of their exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Monks from other monasteries were traveling to the town to express their solidarity and people trying to enter the town were being stopped and questioned by plainclothes security, it said.
Calls to Tongren police, local government and Communist Party offices rang unanswered.
More than two dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China over the last year to protest the suppression of their religion and culture and call for the Dalai Lama's return.
At his annual news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao spoke out against the immolations and said it was sad to see such behavior from innocent Tibetans.
"We are opposed to taking such radical moves which disturb and undermine the social harmony," Wen said. "The young Tibetans are innocent. We feel deeply distressed by their behavior."
China has previously sought to discredit the self-immolators, saying that some suffered mental problems or had criminal records.
Wen also stressed that Tibet and other heavily Tibetan areas of China remain "inseparable parts of China's territory."
Tibetans, including a prominent writer in Beijing, have pleaded for an end to the self-immolations, saying they are not helping the cause of Tibetan rights.
The communist government has blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama for encouraging the self-immolations.
The Dalai Lama has said he does not encourage the protests, but has praised the courage of those who engage in self-immolation and has attributed the protests to what he calls China's "cultural genocide" in Tibet.
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