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Tibetan rights group says monk set himself on fire
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Oct 3, 10:24 PM (ET)

BEIJING (AP) - Another monk has set himself on fire to protest against China's tight grip over Buddhist practices in Tibet, an activist group said.

Free Tibet said Monday that the monk, aged 17 or 18, is from the Kirti monastery in Aba in western Sichuan near the Tibetan border. A statement from the group, which calls for self-determination for Tibet, said it is the fifth such self-immolation incident this year.

It said the monk, Kalsang, was holding a picture of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, and calling for religious rights and freedoms in Tibet when he set himself on fire in a vegetable market in Aba.

"It is tragic that a fifth monk has set fire to himself in Tibet this year. ... A growing number of Tibetans clearly feel that this is the only way that they can be heard," Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in the statement.

The London-based group said that police put the flames out, but that Kalsang's condition was not known. It was not possible to independently confirm the claim.

A man who answered the phone at the monastery hung up when asked if there was an incident, as did a woman who answered the phone at the county government office. Calls to the local police station rang unanswered.

Aba and Kirti monastery have been the scene of numerous protests over the past several years against the Chinese government. Most are led by monks who are fiercely loyal to the Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

A week ago, two monks from the same monastery set themselves on fire. They were rescued by police with slight burns, according to reports at the time.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to separate Tibet from China, while he says he seeks only increased autonomy for the region, not independence.

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