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5th Tibetan in week sets self on fire in far-western China

BEIJING -- A man in his early 20s has become the fifth Tibetan in a week to set himself on fire and die in a county in western China to protest against Chinese rule, the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile said Saturday.

Tsepag Kyab, 21, set himself on fire Friday evening at a bus station in Amuquhu town in Xiahe county, the Central Tibetan Administration said.

A separate report by the London-based rights group Free Tibet identified the man as 23-year-old Tsewang Kyab. It said Tsepag is likely to be his formal name while Tsewang was the name used by family and friends, and that the group relies on its sources for the man's age.

Earlier Friday, a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer, Lhamo Tseten, died from self-immolation near a military base and a government office in Amuquhu, the group said. China's official Xinhua News Agency reported the self-immolation of a Tibetan man by the same name, though it gave slightly different details. Xinhua said Lhamo was a 23-year-old villager and that he set himself on fire near a hospital.

Calls to local governments in the area rang unanswered Saturday.

In the past week in Xiahe county, which is in Gansu province, a herdsman, a farmer and a man in his late 20s also died after setting themselves on fire.

Dozens of ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire in heavily Tibetan regions since March 2011 to protest what activists say is Beijing's heavy-handed rule in the region. Many have called for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader.

Xiahe is home to Labrang Monastery, one of the most important outside of Tibet and the site of numerous protests by monks following deadly ethnic violence in Tibet in 2008 that was the most sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.

Police in the region are offering a reward of US$7,700 for information about planned self-immolations in a bid to stem the protests.

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