Beijing today again blamed exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama for the recent spurt in self-immolations by ethnic Tibetans demanding freedom, saying he and his followers were inciting the acts.
At least three more cases of deaths by self-immolation have been reported since last weekend. Rights group said the total number of such cases reported between 2009 and now are nearing 60.
In nearly all the cases, according to statements released by right groups, the protesters set themselves on fire demanding more freedom for their community and the return of Dalai Lama to Tibet.
In recent months, the Chinese government had seldom reacted to the deaths, seldom confirming or even denying the incidents.
But on Wednesday, prodded by reporters, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, repeated the government’s earlier allegation.
"To our knowledge most of the self-immolation cases in the Tibetan-inhabited regions are related to the instigation of the Dalai clique," was spokesperson Hong Lei’s terse reply.
He added: “In order to realise their separatist goals, the Dalai clique has incited some people to self-immolate. This is despicable and should be condemned.”
Hong didn’t share evidence about the Dharamshala-based Dalai Lama’s involvement in the cases of protest suicides.
In 2011, Beijing had him of instigating the burnings as a form of "terrorism in disguise".
But worryingly for the government, the number of incidents has shot up recently.
On Tuesday, a Tibetan farmer in his 50s named as Dorjee Rinchen died after setting himself on fire near the Labrang monastery in northwest China's Gansu province, the US-based International Campaign for Tibet said in a statement.
“This is the second self-immolation in two days in Labrang , the ninth self-immolation in Tibet in the last month…Security forces tried to prevent local people from carrying Dorjee Rinchen’s body back to his home but, after a brief confrontation, locals brought his body back to his home in Upper Zayue village,” the London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.
“Dorjee Rinchen is the second Tibetan to set himself on fire in Labrang in two days. Like many Tibetans in the last eighteen months, he set himself on fire in front of a government building that symbolises China’s occupation. Tibetans are paying a terrible price for the Communist Party leadership’s determination to maintain stability,” director, Stephanie Brigden, said in the statement.