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Sep 22, 3:32 AM EDT

Group: Tibetan student dies after self-immolation

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BEIJING (AP) -- A Tibetan student died last week after setting himself on fire, in the first such protest in five months, a London-based activist group said Monday.

The Free Tibet group said Lhamo Tashi burned himself to death on Sept. 17 in the city of Hezuo in the Tibetan prefecture of Gannan in the northwestern province of Gansu.

A request for comment from the local Communist Party office was not immediately answered, and calls to the local police bureau rang unanswered. Because of tight information controls in Tibetan regions, independent verification of such incidents is difficult.

Free Tibet said the family requested the return of the student's body but that local authorities cremated it before giving his ashes to his family two days later.

About 130 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009 to protest Beijing's rule over the Himalayan region.

Beijing has responded by punishing those attempting to immolate themselves as well as their sympathizers. A number of Tibetans have been convicted and sentenced on charges of homicide for aiding or inciting others to burn themselves.

Beijing blames the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, for inciting the self-immolations, although Tibetan rights advocates say the acts are a desperate protest against China's repressive policies and practices in the ethnic region.

Beijing says it treats minorities in China fairly, and that it has poured billions of dollars into raising living standards in Tibetan areas.

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