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Six Tibetans set themselves alight

Six Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in an escalating wave of protest against Beijing's rule in Tibet. The self-immolations took place on the eve of a congress opening to steer China’s leadership change.

A man set himself ablaze on Thursday in the Tibetan-inhabited Huangnan prefecture in Qinghai province where a 23-year-old woman self-immolated and died on Wednesday, Tibetan exiles and rights groups said on Thursday.

Three teenage monks also set themselves alight on Wednesday in Aba County in Sichuan province, the focus of previous protests, while another burning was confirmed in the Tibetan Automonous Region on the same day.

The six self-immolations occurred during the start of a pivotal week-long Communist Party congress, which will usher in the next decade of Chinese leadership.

"The self-immolations in Tibet are an appeal to the international community, to the Chinese government and to the Chinese people as human beings to hear their cry for help," Dicki Chhoyang, information secretary for the exiled government, told the AFP news agency.

"We hope that the new leadership will demonstrate greater wisdom by understanding that addressing the issue of Tibet is in China's long-term interest," said Chhoyang.

About 70 Tibetans have set fire to themselves over the past two years to protest against Chinese rule of Tibet but this is the first time such a large number of burnings have happened on the same day.

Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged China to address Tibetans' grievances saying, "I recognize Tibetans' intense sense of frustration and despair which has led them to resort to such extreme means."

China rebuffed the criticism and expressed "strong dissatisfaction."

The Tibetan government, which is not recognized by any foreign state, has been based in Dharamshala, India since Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959.

hc/rc (AFP, dpa)