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First Tibet 'self-immolation' convictions in China, as fiery deaths near 100

Chinese courts start to prosecute as more monks, nuns, and ordinary Tibetans protest policies to shun the Dalai Lama and absorb ancient culture.

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In this photo, Beijing-based artist Liu Yi casts his shadow on his painting of portraits of Tibetans who have self-immolated over the past three years as he works at his studio in Songzhuang art village in Tongzhou, on the outskirt of Beijing.

Andy Wong/AP

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Chinese courts today convicted eight Tibetans on accusations they incited others to self-immolate, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The cases are the first known public prosecution of self-immolations and a further sign that Beijing is responding to the increasing number of fiery protests by criminalizing both the protesters and their friends and sympathizers.

The convictions also appear aimed at shoring up Beijing's claims that such acts are instigated by outsiders with ulterior motives, rather than genuine protests.

Nearly 100 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have now set themselves on fire since 2009, usually after calling for religious freedom and the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

A court in Aba prefecture in the southwestern province of Sichuan sentenced Lorang Konchok, 40, to death with a two-year reprieve and gave his nephew Lorang Tsering, 31, a 10-year prison sentence for their roles in encouraging eight people to self-immolate last year, three of whom died from their burns, Xinhua said.

Both were charged with murder.

Suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life in prison. Calls to the court rang unanswered Thursday.

In a separate report, Xinhua said a county court in Gannan prefecture in Gansu province sentenced six ethnic Tibetans to between three and 12 years in prison for their roles in the self-immolation of a local resident in October.

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