Tibetan dies in self-immolation in China: Xinhua

A Tibetan man died after self-immolating on Saturday, China's state media said, the seventh person to set themselves on fire in the last week as the ruling Communists gather for a leadership transition.

The 18-year-old set himself ablaze in front of a monastery in northwestern China's Gansu province, state-run Xinhua news agency said -- the seventh person reported to have set themselves on fire in just four days to highlight simmering desperation in Tibetan areas.

Self-immolations to protest against Chinese rule of the Tibetan heartland have occurred since 2009 -- 69 people have set themselves on fire since then, of whom 54 died, according to the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile.

But the immolations have gained pace in recent months and particularly in the past week as the Communist Party opened a sensitive congress on Thursday that will end next week with a once-a-decade transition of power in the party.

The Communists, who face festering problems of dissent in minority areas, but also widespread social unrest across the country, have sought to project an image of national unity under the Communist Party banner for the gathering.

But the wave of protests, especially since last week, have been aimed at undercutting the facade, according to representatives of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India.

In the latest incident, a man identified as Gonpo Tsering, set himself alight at 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) in the city of Hezuo in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Gannan, Xinhua reported.

Other self-immolations since Wednesday included an 18-year-old man who did so outside a monastery in Qinghai province, and a 23-year-old woman who died after setting herself alight in the area, the exiled government has said.

It also said a trio of young monks aged 16 or under set themselves on fire Wednesday in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province, leaving one dead and the others injured, while another burning took place in Tibet itself.

Local residents and overseas Tibetan rights groups have said thousands of Tibetans amassed in streets in the city of Tongren in Qinghai province in the past two days following the immolations to demand an end to cultural repression.

The residents and groups said Chinese police responded by ramping up the security presence in the area.

At the end of the congress next week, Chinese President Hu Jintao is widely expected to hand leadership of the party to Vice President Xi Jinping after ten years in power.

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