BEIJING, Aug 28: Two Tibetan men have died after setting fire to themselves in China, a US broadcaster and two overseas pressure groups said Tuesday, taking the number of such protests to more than 50 since 2009.
Lobsang Kalsang, 18, a Buddhist monk, and former monk Damchoe, 17, died in hospital on Monday after setting themselves on fire in southwest China´s Aba town, which has become a flashpoint for protests against Beijing´s rule.
The two men shouted slogans condemning Chinese policies in Tibet as they set themselves alight, Radio Free Asia said, citing two India-based monks with contacts in Aba, Sichuan province.
They protested close to Aba´s Kirti monastery, which has been under heavy security since a monk self-immolated in March 2011, kicking off a wave of the dramatic protests by mostly young ethnic Tibetans in the region.
The latest deaths take the number of ethnic Tibetans to have self-immolated since 2009 to 51, according to tallies by overseas-based pressure groups Free Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet.
"Tibetans´ fundamental human rights are being ignored by international leaders who are afraid of risking their relationships with China," said Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden in a statement.
"The time has come for each one of us to speak up and demand Tibetan freedom."
Free Tibet said Damchoek, who like many Tibetans used only one name, was the brother of Tenzin Choedon, a teenage nun who set fire to herself in February this year.
No one at the Kirti monastery or the hospital where the monks reportedly died could be reached by telephone, while authorities in Aba declined to comment on the latest self-immolation reports.
China has accused the Dalai Lama -- who fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and is vilified as a "separatist" by Communist authorities -- of encouraging the protests.
The Dalai Lama has himself condemned self-immolations, which many Buddhists believe are contrary to their faith, but blamed them on hardline Chinese rule of Tibetan-populated areas.
Tibetans have long chafed under China´s rule over the vast Tibetan plateau, saying that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country´s main ethnic group.
Beijing, however, says that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China´s economic expansion.