A mother of four died after setting herself on fire in a Tibetan-inhabited region of southwest China on Sunday, a rights group said, in the latest self-immolation to hit the country.
The death of Rinchen, 32, in Sichuan province’s Aba town comes on the eve of the country’s 10-day parliamentary session where growing social unrest across China is likely to be on the agenda.
Rinchen called for the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as she set herself alight near the restive Kirti monastery, London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the incident, and calls to local police and government officials in Aba went unanswered.
Rights groups say more than 20 people have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China over the past year, mostly in Sichuan, in protest at what is seen as repressive Chinese rule.
Authorities are particularly keen to avoid any protests during this year’s parliamentary meeting — the last under the current leadership before a major transition of power begins in the autumn — which coincides with the sensitive anniversaries of the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile in 1959 and of deadly riots in 2008.
China’s top leader in Tibet has ordered increased controls over the Internet and mobile phones during the period, according to state media reports.
Tibetans have long chafed at China’s rule over the vast Tibetan plateau, accusing Beijing of curbing religious freedoms and eroding their culture and language.
China blames the Dalai Lama of inciting the self-immolations in a bid to split Tibet from the rest of the nation.