Image: A young Tibetan girl participates in a candlelit vigil
Altaf Qadri  /  AP
A young Tibetan girl participates in a candlelit vigil for Tibetans who self-immolated in Tibet, in Bodh Gaya, Bihar state, India, on Sunday, Jan. 8. Bodh Gaya is believed to be the place where Buddha attained enlightenment.
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updated 1/9/2012 3:47:10 PM ET 2012-01-09T20:47:10

The body of a Tibetan monk who died after setting himself on fire was paraded through the streets in northwestern China, a report said Monday, in the latest in a series of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.

U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia said hundreds of angry Tibetans forced police to hand over the remains of the 42-year-old monk, named Sopa, and then carried them through the streets in Dari county in Qinghai province.

It said the monk died Sunday morning after drinking kerosene and throwing it over his body. Radio Free Asia quoted a source as saying Sopa's "body exploded in pieces" before police took it away.

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Two other men set themselves on fire Friday in Sichuan province. At least 15 monks, nuns and former monks are now believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Radio Free Asia said police first refused to give up the body but relented after "the protesters smashed windows and doors of the local police station," according to another source.

It quoted a third source as saying only the head and chest parts were intact.

The official Xinhua News Agency identified the dead monk as Nyage Sonamdrugyu. The reason for the discrepancy in identification was not known.

Xinhua said an initial investigation found the monk set himself on fire out of shame that his "secret love affair with a local woman was discovered by the woman's husband," citing an unnamed spokesman with the local Communist Party committee.

Xinhua said about 500 sympathizers gathered on the streets around the intersection where he died but dispersed two hours later "under the persuasion of relevant departments."

Calls Monday to the Communist Party's propaganda department, the Public Security Bureau and the government in Dari county rang unanswered. The county is in Golog prefecture, and calls to the prefecture level party, public security and government offices also rang unanswered.

Radio Free Asia said security in the area has been tightened.

The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was seriously concerned by the latest reports of self-immolations. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the incidents reflected "enormous anger and enormous frustration" over severe Chinese government restrictions on human rights and religious freedom.

Most of the self-immolations have occurred in traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan that have been hotbeds of opposition to central government control. The area where Sopa reportedly set himself on fire Sunday is just north of Sichuan.

Friday's incidents, which occurred in Sichuan's Aba prefecture, were confirmed by Xinhua. One of the men died, according to the London-based Free Tibet group, which said the men were protesting tight Chinese control over Tibetan life and culture.

China chooses Buddhist leaders in Tibet and wants to pick a pro-Beijing successor to the Dalai Lama, whom China considers to be a separatist. China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for most of that time.

Xinhua reported late Sunday that senior officials from Tibet "have pledged stepped-up efforts to strengthen the management of monasteries in the fight against the Dalai Lama group."

It quoted Basang Toinzhub, a senior political adviser in Tibet, as saying the top priority was to maintain stability and promote harmony.

Basang said the focus this year will be on helping the government strengthen management of monasteries "to push forward the patriotic and legal education among monks and nuns."

China routinely blames supporters of the Dalai Lama for encouraging acts of opposition. Xinhua cited a Tibetan expert as saying "the Dalai Lama clique" had "instigated and enticed" the two men to set themselves on fire Friday.

The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile say they oppose all violence.

The State Department's Nuland said the U.S. has "consistently and directly" raised the self-immolations with the Chinese government, and has urged it to have a productive dialogue on Tibet, allow access for journalists and diplomats to that region and to respect the human rights of all its citizens.

____

Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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