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China charges Tibetan monks with homicide in self-immolation

BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in southwest China has charged three Tibetan monks with “intentional homicide” for hiding a fellow monk and preventing him from getting treatment after he set himself on fire, state news agency Xinhua reported Friday.

Overseas rights groups say that the monk, named Rigzin Phuntsog, committed the act to protest against government controls on the restive region of Tibet.

His death triggered protests in Aba, a mainly ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province that erupted in defiance against Chinese control three years ago.

The court in Aba will next week hear the case against monks Tsering Tenzin and Tenchum from the Kirti Monastery for “plotting, instigating and assisting in the self-immolation of a fellow monk,” Xinhua said.

“The procuratorate also alleged that another Kirti monk, Drongdru, moved and hid the injured Phuntsog and prevented emergency treatment, causing the 16-year-old’s death due to belated treatment,” it added.

“Phuntsog set himself on fire on March 16 and was hidden for 11 hours. He died the next morning after treatments failed at a local hospital.”

At least three Tibetan monks have immolated themselves in China since 2009.

In March 2008, Tibetan protests led by monks in Tibetan capital Lhasa were suppressed by police and turned violent.

Rioters torched shops and turned on residents, especially Han Chinese, whom many Tibetans see as intruders threatening their culture.

That unrest spilled over into other ethnic Tibetan parts of China, including mountainous western Sichuan.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ed Lane