The number of Tibetans who self-immolated in the last one week is now seven, rights groups have said, adding that news of two more cases that took place in the Tibetan Autonomous Region earlier this week only coming out on late Saturday.
Two Tibetan men, cousins Tsepo, 20, and Tenzin, 25, set fire to themselves in a protest in their village north of Lhasa on Thursday afternoon.
Tsepo, according to London-based Free Tibet, is reported to have died on the way to the hospital. “Tenzin was taken away by government officials; his wellbeing and whereabouts are unknown,” the group said.
“The cousins called out for independence for Tibet, for all Tibetans to unite as brothers and sisters, and for the return of the Dalai Lama as they set fire to themselves in front of a government building in their village,” the statement added.
Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said: “It has taken two days for information about this latest protest to emerge. Tibetans in Driru County are being intimidated in both visible and invisible ways.
“Chinese state security forces have been deployed in large numbers across Driru County. The internet and telephones are often blocked and, when they are working, Tibetans are afraid to talk about what is happening because they fear that their communications are being monitored by the government.”
Brigden added that given recent disappearances and convictions of up to seven years imprisonment related to charges of sharing information, their fears were likely to be justified.
“Across Tibet, the Chinese state is employing force and intimidation to quell calls for freedom and suppress information about protests,” Brigden said.
According to the group, there’s been a sharp rise in cases of self-immolations in 2012; in 2011 12 were reported. This year the number is nearing 50.
China calls the self-immolators "terrorists" and repeatedly, as recently as last week, blamed the India-based Tibetan spiritual leader, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, for inciting them.
The Dalai Lama denies supporting violence and says he seeks greater autonomy for his homeland, which he claims is a victim of Chinese "cultural genocide".