Latest protests come as Tibetans mark end of new year, and days ahead of Chinese Parliament session

Two more self-immolation protests by Tibetan monks have been reported this week in western China, days ahead of the opening of the Chinese Parliament which is set to bring tighter security restrictions across Tibetan areas in coming days.

According to overseas groups, two monks in their early 20s set themselves on fire as worshippers gathered for prayers on the occasion of the end of the Tibetan New Year, which was, this year, marked with less than usual festivities on account of the more than 100 self-immolation protests by Tibetans in China since 2011.

The most recent protests were reported to have taken place on Sunday and Monday, in the western provinces of Qinghai and Gansu. Most of the self-immolations have taken place in the two provinces and in neighbouring Sichuan, where the spate of protests first began in 2009.

A monk named by overseas groups as Phagmo Dundrup set himself on fire at a monastery in Qinghai on Sunday, while Tsesung Kyap carried out a protest a day later in Luqu, a county in Gansu. Just last week, two Tibetan teenagers set themselves on fire in Aba, a predominantly Tibetan prefecture in Sichuan where the protests first began.

More than 105 Tibetans in China have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies. The moves have brought fresh security restrictions across many Tibetan areas in western China and also in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), where, however, fewer protests have been reported.

Chinese officials have accused overseas groups of a “plot” to undermine stability and have also blamed the Dalai Lama for “encouraging” the protests, a charge the exiled spiritual leader strongly denies. The Dalai Lama has called on China to examine its policies and for a fact-finding mission into the incidents.

The situation in Tibetan areas is set to figure in next week’s meeting of the National People’s Congress, or Chinese Parliament, which opens on March 5.

The week-long session is also likely to bring a tightening of security across Tibetan areas. The meeting will see the appointment of new officials across various levels of the Chinese central and provincial governments. Most notably, Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping will replace outgoing Hu Jintao as President, while second-ranked Politburo Standing Committee member Li Keqiang is expected to take the place of Premier Wen Jiabao.

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