Image: Buddhist monks near the Kirti monastary in the town of Aba in China's Sichuan province
AFP - Getty Images
Buddhist monks gather outside one of the entrances to the Kirti monastary in the town of Aba in China's Sichuan province on Monday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 10/18/2011 6:51:32 AM ET 2011-10-18T10:51:32

A Tibetan nun calling for greater religious freedom set herself on fire in western China, the latest in a series of self-immolations among the region's Buddhist clergy, an advocacy group said Tuesday.

In a separate incident, security forces shot two Tibetans during a protest outside a police station, London-based Free Tibet reported.

The two incidents could not immediately be independently confirmed Tuesday, although tensions have been high across the region since widespread anti-government protests in 2008. Communist government officials gave no comment when contacted.

Slogans
Free Tibet said the nun, 20-year-old Tenzin Wangmo, died after setting herself on fire Monday outside Dechen Chokorling nunnery in Sichuan province's Aba prefecture where a number of other self-immolations have taken place this year. The group said she chanted slogans as she set herself alight calling for greater religious freedom and the return of Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama.

Image: Chinese paramilitary police on streets of Aba in China's Sichuan province
AFP - Getty Images
Paramilitary police march in the streets of Aba in China's Sichuan province on Monday.

Her death comes seven months after a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Phuntsog, 21, from the restive Kirti monastery, burned himself to death. As a result, security forces detained about 300 monks for a month.

Rights groups say the unrest could lead to a crackdown in Aba, which erupted in violence in March 2008 when Buddhist monks and other Tibetans loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama, their traditional religious leader, confronted police and troops.

Nine ethnic Tibetans, eight of them from Aba prefecture, have burned themselves since March to protest against religious controls by the Chinese government, which labels the Dalai Lama a violent separatist. The Dalai Lama denies the charges.

Slideshow: The Dalai Lama (on this page)

The two men shot Sunday in Sichuan's Garze prefecture, identified as Dawa and Druklo, were taken away by area residents and their conditions were unknown, Free Tibet said. Many Tibetans use just one name.

There is no tradition of self-immolation as a form of protest in Tibetan society. The acts are seen as an attempt to draw attention to repression of Tibetan Buddhism.

Most ignited the flames while calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. Aged in their late teens and twenties, at least five died of their injuries, while the condition of the other four is not known.

"The acts of self-immolation are not taking place in isolation, protests have been reported in the surrounding region and calls for wider protests are growing," Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden was quoted as saying in a statement.

Video: Exiled leader: Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet ‘possible’ (on this page)

China's Foreign Ministry last week accused the Dalai Lama's followers of encouraging the self-immolations by not denouncing them.

'Immoral'
Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin on Tuesday said he was still seeking information on the latest incident, but said the government would "handle this appropriately."

"We believe the encouragement of such behavior at the cost of human life is immoral," Liu said.

The self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile has described the self-immolations as tragic acts and called for the international community to urge Beijing to open a dialogue on its policies in Tibet and traditionally Tibetan regions of western China. A daylong prayer service for the self-immolators and jailed Tibetan political prisoners is planned for Wednesday at the Dalai Lama's headquarters in the Indian town of Dharmsala.

Video: Dalai Lama: Internet a path to ‘new ideas’ (on this page)

Communist Party and government spokesmen in Aba said they knew nothing about the reported incident and refused to give their names or titles because they weren't authorized to speak with foreign media.

A party spokesman in Garze's Seda county also said he had no knowledge of the shootings and refused to comment further.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Communist troops marched in 1950.

But it rejects the criticism of rights groups and exiled Tibetans, saying its rule has bought much needed development to a poor and backward region.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Exiled leader: Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet ‘possible’

Photos: The Dalai Lama

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  1. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, as a young child. He was born into a prosperous farming family in Tibet in 1935. He was enthroned as the leader of Tibet in 1950 at the age of 15 and also assumed the role of Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader. After the collapse of the Tibetan resistance movement in 1959, he fled to India. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The Dalai Lama and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi in 1961, where they discussed the plight of Tibetans who crossed the border into India during the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. When the Tibetan resistance collapsed in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India. China has ruled Tibet since then. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Pope John Paul II meets with the Dalai Lama at Vatican City in November 2003. He has met with many religious leaders over the years to promote religious dialogue. In 1989, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The Dalai Lama poses with his wax image at Madame Tussaud's in 1993 in London. He brought a pair of his own glasses for the statue. (Gerry Penny / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Dalai Lama jokes with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani before an audience of 3,000 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1997. (Adam Nadel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Dalai Lama speaks to an audience 40,000-strong at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington in July 2000. (Khue Bui / AFP-Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. President George W. Bush welcomes the Dalai Lama to the White House in 2001. (The White House via AFP - Getty) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The Dalai Lama pats a koala held by Bindi Irwin at the Australia Zoo during a tour titled "Open Arms -- Embracing Kindness" in Beerwah in June 2007. (Greg White / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A monk stands in front of Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in 2004. Before his exile, the palace was the winter home of the Dalai Lama. (Peter Parks / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The Dalai Lama presents actor Richard Gere with a traditional Tibetan ceremonial scarf during the International Campaign for Tibet 2009 Light of Truth Award in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2009. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Framed by the Tibetan flag, the Dalai Lama speaks to members of the Tibetan community on Oct. 11, 2007, in New York City. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Dalai Lama speaks with spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during the launch ceremony of Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony in New Delhi on Jan. 22, 2008. The organization aims to build a global civilization of peace, harmony and mutual enrichment. (Vijay Mathur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Dalai Lama addresses a press conference in New Delhi, on March 29, 2008. He discussed the Chinese government policy of "demographic aggression." (Manish Swarup / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pro-Tibetan protesters hold candles as they stand next to a poster of the Dalai Lama during a rally in San Francisco on April 8, 2008. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The exiled spiritual leader playfully touches fists with musician Dave Matthews after a panel discussion at Seattle's Key Arena on April 11, 2008. (Marcus Donner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Devotees watch the Tibetan spiritual leader give religious teachings at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, on Sept. 30, 2008. (Ashwini Bhatia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama gives a speech at the EU Parliament in Brussels on December 4, 2008. China warned that day that multi-billion-dollar trade ties with France could be affected by President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned meeting with the Dalai Lama. (Eric Vidal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa, right, and fellow laureates the Dalai Lama, left, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, center, are seen in Gdansk, Poland, on Dec. 5, 2008. Walesa was marking the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize win. (Czarek Sokolowski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Dalai Lama receives an honorary doctorate at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, on December 8, 2008. He expressed admiration for the nation's 1980s non-violent struggle against its now defunct communist regime. (Pawel Ulatowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Dalai Lama prays before inaugurating the installation of a hand-carved 2.5 meter-high stone statue of Lord Buddha in the compound of the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in the northern Indian city of Sarnath on Jan. 9, 2009. (Abhishek Madhukar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The Dalai Lama smiles as he is flanked by Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, left, and his wife Isabella, right, after being made an honorary citizen of the Italian city on Feb. 9, 2009. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Dalai Lama greets reporters as he arrives for a press conference at the main temple in Dharamsala, India, on March 10, 2009. In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama said he would continue to pursue the "middle path" approach despite China's crackdown on Tibetans. (Harish Tyagi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Dalai Lama speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington on Feb. 18, 2010, following a meeting with President Barack Obama. Every U.S. president for the last two decades has met with the Dailai Lama, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. The Dalai Lama announced that he will pass the reins of political power to the elected prime minister of the self-proclaimed on Thursday, March 10, 2011. Tibetan government in exile hoping to prevent a political vacuum after his death and ensure an effective response to Chinese crackdowns and Beijing's increasingly effective use of diplomatic pressure. Dalai Lama made a point of saying he wasn't retiring, and his global status and reputation ensure that he will continue to play a major role in Tibetan affairs. (David Stephenson / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Dalai Lama holds a forty-nine days memorial service for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at the Gokokuji temple in Tokyo on Friday, April 29, 2011. The 75-year-old monk, on his way to the US, offered prayers and messages to a nation in deep sorrow after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that has plunged Japan into its worst post-War crisis. (Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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