China Says Tibetan Monk Stable After Setting Himself Ablaze

Chinese state media have confirmed that a Tibetan Buddhist monk set himself on fire last week in southwest China and is now hospitalized.

According to an official Xinhua news agency report, the 24-year-old man identified as Tashi or Tapey was studying at Kitri monastery in Sichuan province's Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) town.

Earlier reports from Tibetan advocacy groups said he had set himself ablaze in an apparent protest of government restrictions of religion. They say the monk was holding the banned Tibetan flag and a picture of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

Xinhua quoted doctors at Ngaba's People's Hospital as saying the monk was now out of danger. Doctors say he has been transferred to a hospital in the Sichuan capital of Chengdu.

Activist groups also claimed that he had been shot by police while he was burning. However, Xinhua quotes another Tibetan monk as saying he made up the story.

It was impossible to verify either version of the incident as China has sealed off the region to journalists and foreigners.

The Xinhua report did not say why he lit himself on fire in protest.

The incident comes as tensions are high in Tibetan areas in China and the remote region of Tibet ahead of next week's 50th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

Exiles and activist groups say Chinese security forces have locked down Tibet and areas of western China such as Ngaba that have Tibetan populations.