Authorities allege they are Tibetan Youth Congress members who “masterminded” self-immolations

Chinese authorities said on Tuesday they had “apprehended” seven people for convincing a Tibetan villager in the southwestern Gansu province to carry out a self-immolation protest, days after another Tibetan set himself on fire.

Local authorities have alleged that the seven people had “convinced” a 26-year-old Tibetan to set himself on fire on October 6 last year. The immolation, they claimed, was “masterminded by key members of the Tibetan Youth Congress of the overseas Dalai clique”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

More than 95 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies. While the Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama of planning a “separatist plot”, the exiled spiritual leader has denied the allegations, and pointed to restrictive Chinese policies for triggering the unrest.

In the first self-immolation reported this year, a man in his early twenties set himself on fire on Saturday in Xiahe, a town in Gansu province near the famous Labrang monastery, according to overseas groups. Saturday’s self-immolation was the first case reported in almost a month, with the Chinese government in recent weeks stepping up a campaign to stop the spread of the protests, which began in February 2009.

Since then, more than 95 Tibetans, from monks to farmers and students, have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces; the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has seen few immolation protests. The protests had accelerated towards the end of last year, with more than two dozen Tibetans setting themselves on fire in November alone.

Security stepped-up

To stop the protests, the Chinese government has tightened security blanket across Tibetan areas in the three provinces and in the TAR, restricting movements of Tibetans and installing checkpoints to prevent the entry of journalists. Authorities have also offered rewards of up to 50,000 Yuan for information on “planning and instigating” of protests, and in some areas have cancelled social security benefits to relatives of immolators to discourage protests.

In December, police in Sichuan, which has seen the most protests, mainly around the Kirti monastery, detained a monk at the monastery and his nephew. They accused the monk, Lorang Konchok (40), of “goading eight people to set themselves on fire”.

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