2 Tibetan protesters "shot dead"

BEIJING: Security forces shot dead two Tibetan brothers who were on the run after protesting against Chinese rule, US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia said, a day after a monk reportedly set himself alight.

The incidents are said to have taken place in two provinces bordering the Tibet autonomous region, as tension in Tibetan-inhabited areas intensifies over perceived religious, political and cultural repression.

China launched a clampdown after at least two other Tibetans were killed in a series of protests last month, in what Beijing says is a battle against forces trying to split Tibet from the rest of China.

According to Radio Free Asia (RFA) -- a US-funded group that broadcasts news in several languages including Tibetan -- Yeshe Rigsal, a monk, and his brother were shot dead Thursday in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The duo had taken part in a protest in the predominantly Tibetan Luhuo county on January 23 that turned violent when police shot dead at least one person. Two other areas of western Sichuan were then also hit by unrest.


News of the latest shooting is very difficult to confirm after police locked down western Sichuan, barring foreign reporters from going and cutting most means of communication.

Calls made to Luhuo police and to a local monastery were met with a rapid beeping tone, suggesting phones had been disabled. A man at the government office said he was unaware of the incident.

RFA, citing an exiled monk who has contacts in the region, said the two brothers had been on the run in the hills when security forces encircled them and shot them dead.

The reported incident came a day after a monk in his thirties in Qinghai -- another province with large populations of ethnic Tibetans -- set himself alight, rights group Free Tibet and RFA said.

This brings to at least 17 the number of people who have set themselves on fire in the past year in Tibetan-inhabited areas in protest at Chinese rule.

Calls to the government and police in Chenduo county, where the self-immolation reportedly took place, went unanswered.

China has blamed much of the unrest on the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. Chen Quanguo -- head of the Tibet autonomous region -- said Thursday the fight against the Nobel Peace Prize laureate would be tough.

"Our struggle against the Dalai clique is long, complicated and at times even acute," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Tibet Daily.

- AFP/wk

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