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September 20, 2017

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Tibet grandfather becomes latest to die in self-immolation protest: group

BEIJING -- The grandfather of a revered Tibetan Buddhist figure has burned to death in northwest China after setting himself on fire in protest at Beijing's rule in the restive region, rights groups said Sunday.

Tamdin Dorjee killed himself near a monastery in China's Gansu province, according to the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and Free Tibet groups, the latest in a series of protests against Beijing's rule in Tibetan areas.

The 52-year-old was said by the ICT to be the grandfather of the seventh Gungthang Rinpoche, who is believed by Tibetan Buddhists to be the reincarnation of an important religious figure.

The rights group also said an increased military presence had been witnessed around the monastery following the incident on Saturday.

More than 50 ethnic Tibetans, many of them monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire in the local area since February 2009 to protest against Beijing's rule.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of enacting religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

But China rejects this, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and pointing to huge ongoing investment, which it says has brought modernization and a better standard of living.

The latest incident comes after the prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile called on the international community to resist growing pressure from China and stand up for human rights in his homeland.

A local official at Hezuo city, which is near the scene of Tamdin Dorjee's death, told AFP: "I can't talk about this kind of thing on the telephone. Please come here if you want to do an interview."

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