A Tibetan man has died after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese rule over the Himalayan region, a rights group said, the latest in a line of dozens of Tibetans to use self-immolation as a form of dissent.
Sangye Gyatso, a 27-year-old father of two, called out for freedom of religion and language in Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' exiled spiritual leader, before setting himself on fire Saturday in northwest China's Gansu province, Free Tibet said in a statement.
The incident happened around midday near a monastery outside the city of Tsoe, known as Hezuo in Chinese, the London-based group said.
A man from the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture propaganda office said he had no information about the reported incident. Calls to the local police rang unanswered. Independent verification of events and conditions in Tibet is nearly impossible because of restrictions on travel.
"Sangye Gyatso's protest demonstrates the absolute determination of Tibetans to secure their freedom, no matter what the personal cost may be," Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement late Saturday.
According to Free Tibet, more than 50 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China since 2009 to protest Chinese rule.
The group said Sangye Gyatso's body was carried to nearby Dokar Monastery, where monks prayed for him, and was then taken a short distance to Dzeruwa village, where his family had gathered. He had a seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter, according to Free Tibet.
There was a large military presence at the monastery and the village following the fatal protest, Free Tibet said.
China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries and that Beijing's control is draining Tibetan culture.