Chinese authorities have arrested seven Tibetans with connections to the India-based Tibetan Youth Congress from the north-western Gansu province for allegedly goading another Tibetan to self-immolate last year October.
The latest arrests comes less than a month after the arrest of a Tibetan monk and his nephew for instigating eight self-immolations.
At least 95 Tibetans have set themselves afire in Tibetan areas protesting what they perceived as China’s hardline rule and demanding the return of Dalai Lama, the community’s spiritual leader.
Chinese authorities say that the Dalai Lama was instigating separatism and was influencing locals to self-immolate to grab international attention.
“Police investigations show the self-immolation of Sangye Gyatso, a 26-year-old resident of Duohe Village, Nawu Township in the city of Hezuo, on October 6, 2012, was "masterminded by key members of the 'Tibetan Youth Congress' of the overseas Dalai clique," a government statement said.
The news of the arrest comes days after the latest case of protest suicide by Tsering Tashi, who set fire to himself and died on January 12.
The Washington-based International Campaign for Free Tibet claimed that Tashi’s family was not allowed to hold cremation-related rituals.
Tashi’s body was “was removed from his home by the authorities and cremated in the middle of the night. The family of 22-year old Tsering Tashi, who had dressed in traditional Tibetan clothes and wrapped himself in wire before self-immolating, had attempted to carry out traditional prayer rituals but were prevented from doing so,” the organisation said in an emailed statement.
Authorities announced in December criminal penalties for “Anyone who organizes, plots, incites, coerces, entices, abets, or assists others to commit self-immolations,” warning that such persons “shall be held criminally liable for intentional homicide in accordance with the Criminal Law.
According to the government statement, in April 2012, Gonpo Konchoghu – one the main suspects yet to be arrested in the October case -- illegally entered China and urged the local Sangye Gyatso to self-immolate, promising "to send the latter's picture overseas after his self-immolation and request that the Dalai Lama arrange a religious session for him in India."