BEIJING Three protesters shot last week by police in a Tibetan region of China have died of their injuries, taking to five the number of people killed in the incident, a rights group said on Wednesday.
The protest erupted over the detention of a respected village leader in the Ganzi prefecture of southwestern Sichuan province, rights groups say, a flashpoint for Tibetan protests against Chinese rule.
Tsewang Gonpo, 60; Yeshe, 42; and Jinpa Tharchin, 18 died in detention in Ganzi after being denied medical treatment for their injuries, the U.K.-based Free Tibet group said in a statement.
"This shooting and the subsequent treatment of detainees exposes the reality of China's so-called 'rule of law' in Tibet," said Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren.
The three Tibetans were relatives of Wangdak, the leader taken into custody last week after he disagreed with authorities over the harassment of female community members by officials and a measure outlawing local festivals, the rights group said.
Wangdak's detention sparked protests by around 100 Tibetans and security forces opened fire, injuring at least 10 people, it added.
Rights groups said late on Monday that two people had died, including one who committed suicide in protest while in jail.
Calls to the police in Ganzi seeking comment went unanswered.
Human rights activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which it has ruled with an iron fist since People's Liberation Army troops "peacefully liberated" the region in 1950.
China rejects such criticism, saying its rule ended serfdom and brought development to a backward, poverty-stricken region.
Ganzi has been plagued by violent clashes between Tibetans and Chinese authorities despite tight security.
U.S.-based group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) says two Tibetans were shot in the head and at least eight others seriously wounded after police opened fire on unarmed Tibetans who had gathered to mark the Dalai Lama's birthday last year.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)