BEIJING — Two dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in western China this month in a dramatic acceleration of the protests against authoritarian Chinese rule, activist groups say.
The surge in self-immolations, along with an increase in large demonstrations, mark a new phase in the Tibetan protests.
At least 86 people have set themselves on fire since the immolations began in 2009. In a change in recent months, most self-immolators now are lay people — some of them acting together — rather than Buddhist monks and nuns who can be more closely watched by the authorities because they live in tightly monitored monasteries.
The protests have also sought to avoid direct attacks on authorities and government property, acts used in past to label them as riots or terrorism, providing an excuse for greater oppression. Despite the altered approach, observers see little short-term possibility of Beijing changing its repressive policies.
In the latest immolation, 24-year-old Kalsang Kyab doused himself with kerosene and set himself alight Tuesday in front of local government offices in Kyangtsa, according to London-based Free Tibet and other groups.
On Monday, about 1,000 students at a Tsolho Medical Institute staged a protest about 550 miles to the north in Hainan prefecture. Riot police beat the students with rifle butts, sending 20 students to the hospital, some with serious injuries, Free Tibet reported.