A Chinese court on Thursday sentenced a Tibetan man to death with a two-year reprieve for “inciting” eight people to carry out self-immolation protests last year.

In the first major case involving the self-immolation protests in Tibetan areas, Lorang Konchok (40), a monk at the Kirti monastery in northwestern Sichuan province, was charged with “intentional homicide” for “inciting and coercing” eight people to set themselves on fire.

Three of them died, according to the verdict handed down by the Intermediate People’s Court of the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Aba, a predominantly Tibetan area of the province that witnessed many of the at least 99 self-immolations since 2009.

While Konchok was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve — which is likely to be commuted to a life sentence — his nephew, Lorang Tsering (31), was handed a 10-year term for assisting him.

The court said Konchok had “maintained long-term and close contact” with a monk named Santan based in Dharamsala who, the court said, was part of a “Kirti monastery media liaison team” that helped incite protests and then spread information.

The trial, which opened on Monday, has been framed by the government and state media as evidence of an overseas “separatist plot”. The verdict has been seen an indication anyone found spreading information about the continuing protests face stiff sentences.

Self-immolations have been reported mainly in Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces, with monks, nuns, farmers, and even young students setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies. Many of them called for the return of the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Tibet.

The latest protest — by some accounts the 99th self-immolation — was reported as recently as Tuesday, when Kunchok Kyab (26) set himself on fire near the Bora monastery in Gansu, according to overseas groups.

  • First major case involving the self-immolation protests

  • Overseas separatist plot: government