The Tibetan monk who was arrested by the police for allegedly inciting at least people to self-immolate protesting against Beijing's hardline rule might have been tortured to make a confession, rights groups said on Monday.
Police in southwest China's Sichuan Province had detained a monk and his nephew for their roles in inciting a series of self-immolations, state-run Xinhua had quoted local police as saying.
China also issued new regulations on Monday that anyone who incites self-immolations will be severely punished and those held guilty of inciting protest suicides may face homicide charges.
"Police will step up their work and crack down on such criminal acts, as inciting and convincing innocent people to burn themselves to death are not in line with the law," the statement said.
"Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk at the Kirti Monastery in Aba County, Sichuan, has goaded eight people to set themselves on fire, three of whom died, since 2009, said a police statement. He acted on the instructions of the Dalai Lama and his followers, according to his confession and police investigation," the Xinhua report said.
The news of the arrests has been splashed across state media and the confessions of the two were read out on CCTV, the country national broadcaster.
More than 90 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009; many of them have died.
The report added that when someone agreed to commit suicide by burning himself or herself, the two suspects would record his or her personal and family information, take pictures and promise to "pass the information on to India."
The report also singled out Dalai Lama for his role in the incidents. "After a Kirti Monastery monk named Tapey self-immolated in February 2009, Lorang Konchok was contacted by some key figures with the media liaison team -- a "Tibet independence" organization of the Dalai Lama group, and he continuously
sent the latter information about incidents of self-immolation," it said.
According to the police report quoted by Xinhua, at the requests of the media liaison team, Lorang Konchok took advantage of his position and influence in the monastery and often encouraged others to self-immolate, telling local monks and followers that self-immolation was not against Buddhist doctrines and those who did it were "heroes."
But the London-based Freet Tibet questioned the arrests and confessions. "Chinese state media outlet Xinhua is reporting that a monk alleged to have "goaded" eight people to set themselves alight in Tibet has confessed to acting on the instructions of the Dalai Lama. Confessions in Tibet are frequently obtained through torture, which the UN has reported is "widespread" and "routine".
The group said in an emailed statement that available independent evidence indicates that self-immolations are mostly solitary acts which usually come as a surprise to those who know the individual involved.
"The Dalai Lama has never expressed support for the protests and the Tibetan government in exile has called for them to end. China's policy is to blame resistance to its occupation of Tibet on "the Dalai clique", and to reject any suggestion its own policies lie behind the self-immolations ," the statement said.