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China struggles to contain wave of defiance in Tibet

It's illegal for Tibetans to protest, and yet demonstrations against Chinese rule have taken place almost daily for the past two months.

Several monks have set themselves alight, illustrating the desperation of Tibetans resisting Chinese rule.

The spate of self-immolations in the Tibetan-dominated areas of China that have occurred over the past year is "extreme" and hurts social harmony, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said recently.

Wen's comments, at a news conference at the end of the annual meeting of parliament, come after around 26 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, mostly in southwestern China, to protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. At least 19 have died, according to Tibetan rights groups.

Activists say China violently stamps out religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which has been under Chinese control since 1950.

China rejects criticism that it is eroding Tibetan culture and faith, saying its rule has ended serfdom and brought development to a backward region.

The brother of a monk who self-immolated spoke from exile, saying he was "shocked" when he heard the news, but understands the monk's sacrifice. "I feel really, really proud of him and I respect his sacrifice a lot," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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