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Rights groups: 5 Tibetans self-immolate in 2 days

Exiled Tibetans held a demonstration in India ahead of the start of China’s weeklong Communist Party congress.
Ashwini Bhatia/Associated Press
Exiled Tibetans held a demonstration in India ahead of the start of China’s weeklong Communist Party congress.

BEIJING — Tibetan protests against Chinese rule intensified around the opening of a pivotal Communist Party congress as three teenage monks and two other Tibetans set themselves on fire over two days, activists reported Thursday.

Four of the self-immolations took place Wednesday and were followed by a fifth involving a nomad in western Qinghai on Thursday. Since March 2011, dozens of ethnic Tibetans have self-immolated in ethnically Tibetan areas to protest what activists say is China’s heavy-handed rule over the region. Such protests have become more frequent in recent weeks, apparently aimed at the party’s weeklong conference to unveil the country’s new leadership that opened Thursday.

‘‘These protests are aimed at sending the next generation of China’s unelected regime a clear signal that Tibetans will continue to fight for their freedom, despite China’s efforts to suppress and intimidate them,’’ Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.

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Free Tibet also said that the three monks, at ages 15 and 16, were the youngest to self-immolate.

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They set fire to themselves Wednesday afternoon outside a police office in southwest Sichuan Province calling for freedom for Tibet .

Associated Press