SHANGHAI Police have detained a Tibetan monk and his nephew in southwestern China for inciting eight people to set themselves on fire in anti-Chinese protests, the official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.
Ninety-two Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule since 2009, with at least 75 dying from their injuries. The number of these cases have increased significantly this year, with 28 alone in November.
Police in Sichuan province have detained Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk in Aba county, and his 31-year-old nephew for inciting eight people to set themselves on fire since 2009, encouraging them by saying they would be "heroes", Xinhua said.
Three of the eight died, it said.
Tibetan areas in China have been largely closed to foreign reporters, making an independent assessment of the situation there impossible.
Xinhua said Lorang Konchok, who was detained with his nephew in August, confessed to police that he had followed instructions from exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his followers.
Lorang Konchok and his nephew passed on information about each self-immolation, including photos, to overseas contacts belonging to a Tibetan independence organization through mobile phones, it said.
Maria Otero, United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, said in a statement on Wednesday that tensions in Tibetan areas, including self-immolations, had been exacerbated by tough Chinese policies and controls.
In return, China's Foreign Ministry lambasted the United States on Friday for the "disgusting" comments, saying it had prompted them to file a formal diplomatic complaint with Washington.
China has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the remote region suffered from dire poverty, brutal exploitation of serfs and economic stagnation until 1950, when Communist troops "peacefully liberated" it.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He denies fomenting violence or supporting independence, saying he merely wants genuine autonomy for his homeland.
(Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Paul Tait)