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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibet protests hit China on anniversary

March 15, 2012

SHANGHAI — Western China was hit by protests by ethnic Tibetans on Wednesday, the anniversary of unrest in 2008, as a monk set himself on fire and students took to the streets, rights groups said.

A monk from the Rongwo Monastery in China's Qinghai province set himself alight on Wednesday morning, but he is believed to have survived, Free Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet said in separate statements.

The act came four years after deadly unrest shook China's Tibetan areas in March 2008, beginning in the Tibetan capital Lhasa before spreading to other regions.

In the last 12 months, at least 26 other Tibetans -- many of them young Buddhist monks and nuns -- have set themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule.

After the monk, whose name was given as Jamyang Palden, set himself on fire other monks gathered in the square of Tongren town to show solidarity while under the watchful eyes of soldiers, London-based Free Tibet said.

Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet added the government had deployed armed soldiers to the area, some surrounding the monastery, and the situation was "tense".

The Tongren police and local government could not be reached for comment late Wednesday evening.

Students in Tongren and another area nearby also staged protests on the sensitive anniversary, calling for equality for Tibetans, Free Tibet said.

Students from several schools in nearby Zeku county protested in front of government offices, holding a banner calling for freedom of language and equality, it said.

Many Tibetans in China complain of religious repression, as well as a gradual erosion of their culture, which they blame on a growing influx of majority Han Chinese in areas where they live.

China, however, denies this and says Tibetans are leading better lives than ever before thanks to huge investment in infrastructure, schools and housing.

Beijing has accused overseas organisations of seeking independence for Tibet and blamed the Dalai Lama -- Tibet's exiled spiritual leader -- for the unrest.

Tibet's government-in-exile said more than 200 people died in the March 2008 unrest, but China denies that account, saying there were 21 deaths and that "rioters" were responsible.

Authorities have mounted a heavy security presence in Tibetan-inhabited areas in response to the self-immolations and sometimes deadly clashes between protesters and police in recent months.

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