BEIJING (AP) — Two Tibetan teenagers died after setting themselves on fire outside a monastery in southwest China in the latest such protests against Chinese rule, an overseas rights group said Tuesday.
The incidents pushed the number of confirmed self-immolations to 51 since 2009, London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.
The group said 18-year-old monk Lobsang Kalsang and 17-year-old former monk Damchoek set themselves on fire Monday outside Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province's Aba county. They died later in the day after they were taken to a hospital by Chinese authorities, Free Tibet said.
Citing eyewitnesses, Free Radio Asia said the two teenagers shouted slogans condemning Chinese policies in Tibet.
Police in Aba county said Tuesday that they had no information on the self-immolations, which are rarely reported by Chinese state media.
Aba, home to the restive Tibetan Kirti Monastery, has witnessed at least 27 self-immolations, according to an earlier tally by the International Campaign for Tibet.
Supporters say the self-immolators are protesting Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Tibetan regions and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. China has blamed the Tibetans' exiled spiritual leader for inciting the immolations, but the Dalai Lama denies the claim.
The spiritual leader has never publicly supported or denounced the acts.
Lobsang Sangay, the political leader of Tibetan exiles, said earlier this month that the incidents were against the movement's commitment to nonviolence but that it was his duty to highlight why the protesters were dying.
He expressed his disappointment that the self-immolations by Tibetans have not received the same international attention as the similar suicide of a Tunisian man that sparked the Arab Spring.
In Washington, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that the United States had called on Beijing to "meet the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people within China to protect their human rights, to protect their way of life, and to work on these issues through dialogue."