Two more Tibetan teenagers died after setting themselves on fire in China, pushing the number of self-immolations to 104, according to human rights groups.
The teenagers were identified as 17-year-old Rinchen and 18-year-old Sonam Dhargye, who set themselves on fire in Dzorge, Ngaba, located in Sichuan Province, on Tuesday night, said the International Campaign for Tibet, or Save Tibet. They both went to the same primary school.
Of the 104 Tibetans who set themselves on fire since February 2009, 22 were under the age of 18, Save Tibet said. They have taken part in the fiery protests to demonstrate against the Chinese regime’s policies in Tibetan areas, calling for cultural and religious freedom, as well as the return of the Dalai Lama.
Save Tibet said the bodies of Rinchen and Sonam Dargye were recovered by their families, but it is unclear whether they can carry out their traditional prayers.
Another Tibetan, Namlha Tsering, set himself on fire on Feb. 17 and died, but his family and friends were not allowed to conduct prayers at his home. Authorities also took his body away for cremation after his death. This month, five Tibetans have set themselves on fire.
“Tibetans are so distressed by the sentencing of Tibetans to long prison terms by the authorities in their drive to criminalize self-immolation that they have warned self-immolations may continue ‘for a long time,’” the rights group said.
In recent months, the Chinese regime has stepped up surveillance and tightened restrictions over Tibetan areas, arresting dozens of Tibetans who were suspected to be involved in the self-immolation protests. And usually, whenever a self-immolation takes place, the regime cuts off telecommunications to prevent the spread of information.
In one case, Chinese authorities arrested six Tibetans in Tsawa Dzogang, located in Tibet, on Feb. 11 for allegedly spreading fliers calling for Tibet’s independence and leading protests against the Chinese regime, reported the Tibet Post International.
But the two most recent self-immolations “show that despite China’s recent crackdown, this form of protest is likely to remain a feature of the Tibetan response to Chinese occupation in 2013,” Stephanie Brigden, head of Free Tibet, told Radio Free Asia.
“It also highlights the plight of Tibet’s children, who face all the challenges of life under oppression, and are often full participants in the struggle to resist it,” she said.
Tibetan leaders who were exiled to the Indian town of Dharamsala have denied responsibility for the self-immolations and have called on Tibetans living in China to exercise self-restraint.
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