Share story

BEIJING (AP) — A Tibetan monk set himself on fire in western China in an apparent protest against Chinese rule in the traditionally Tibetan region, a monitoring group said Thursday.

Citing an unidentified friend, London-based Free Tibet said 63-year-old Tenga set himself alight on Sunday in Sichuan province’s Kardze county while shouting “We want freedom in Tibet.”

Security forces put out the flames and carried Tenga away, the group said. It wasn’t clear whether he survived.

Police, government and religious affairs bureau officials in the region either said they were unaware of the situation or did not answer their phones.

The self-immolation was the first among the Tibetan Buddhist community in the region since April.

Nearly 150 Tibetans have immolated themselves since 2009, including monks and laypeople, in protest against Chinese policies and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader.

The actions have sparked increased security measures in the already heavily policed region, one possible reason behind their decreased frequency in recent years.

The area is off-limits to foreign media, making it virtually impossible to confirm reported self-immolations, which are believed to have peaked in 2012 with 83 that year.

China claims Tibet, including Kardze, has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time and have protested what they regard as China’s heavy-handed rule.