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Two Tibetans set themselves alight in China
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 21, 2012

Chen says China sanctions against family abating
Washington (AFP) June 21, 2012 - Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist whose flight to the US embassy in Beijing sparked a major diplomatic incident, said Thursday that sanctions against his family are waning.

"The extraordinary official surveillance and restrictions imposed on my family members who remain in our home village reportedly have started to abate," Chen said in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

"The county police have even begun to make amends, offering to pay my brother for some of the furniture they broke during the vengeful attack on his family after they discovered my escape," he wrote.

Chen was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2006 after exposing abuses in China's one-child policy and then placed under house arrest in the village of Shandong upon his release in September 2010.

The 40-year-old activist's escape from house arrest and his dramatic arrival at the US embassy in Beijing in April highlighted China's long-criticized human rights record.

It also sparked a diplomatic incident just as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting the Communist country, and Chen was eventually given notice to pack up his belongings and prepare for departure to New York, arriving in the city on May 19.

In his article, Chen calls for the release of his nephew Chen Kegui, whom he says was detained on April 26 for defending himself against 30 armed thugs linked to "local officials," during a raid on the family's farmhouse.

Police, he said, charged Chen Kegui with attempted murder for wounding three of the attackers with a kitchen knife.

"If instead of being investigated for their misdeeds, local authorities are allowed to prosecute Kegui, this will send a message to the world that Chinese officials are above the law," Chen concluded.

Two young Tibetans in a remote area of northwest China set themselves alight, state media and a rights group said Thursday, in the latest such protest against Chinese rule.

The men, both in their 20s, set themselves on fire Wednesday in Qinghai province's Chenduo county after leaving a letter calling for solidarity among Tibetans, the London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.

The official Xinhua news agency confirmed the incident, quoting local authorities as saying one man -- allegedly a migrant carpenter from neighbouring Sichuan -- was "seriously injured" and still unconscious.

The other victim, a herder, died, it added.

The report said authorities did not provide names or ages for the two, but Free Tibet identified them as Nyawang Norpal, 22, and Tenzin Kaldrup, 24, who died at the scene.

A local government official reached by AFP declined to comment while the Yushu prefecture police and government -- which administers the area -- could not be reached.

Radio Free Asia reported that the two carried Tibetan flags and called for independence for Tibet as well as the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. It said one of the men, whose name it gave as Tenzin Khedup, was a former monk.

Since March last year, at least 40 people have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China in protest at repressive government policies, according to activists.

Last week in Qinghai -- where a large number of Tibetans live -- a middle-aged Tibetan man died after setting himself ablaze.

On May 27, two men set themselves on fire in front of the Jokhang temple, a renowned centre for Buddhist pilgrimage in the centre of Lhasa -- the capital of the Tibet region. It was the first such incident to hit the city.

Tibetans have long chafed under China's rule over the vast Himalayan plateau, saying that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country's main ethnic group.

Beijing, however, says that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China's economic expansion.

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China student's family urges probe into 'suicide'
Beijing (AFP) June 21, 2012 - The parents of a Chinese student found dead with 13 stab wounds to her body have called for an investigation after police ruled she committed suicide, state television reported.

Tian Shuhan, 21, was found dead in the hallway of a teacher's dormitory building at her university in central China's Henan province earlier this month, Henan's Minsheng TV reported.

Police told Minsheng the wounds, including six to her neck and five to her legs, were self-inflicted and stemmed from the extreme mental pressure she was facing during ongoing exams.

But her family said Tian showed no emotional distress ahead of her death -- and questioned how she could have stabbed herself 13 times.

The family is demanding a further investigation and wants to know why she was in the teacher's dormitory, the report said.

Police in Henan's Zhongmou county refused to comment on the case when contacted by AFP. Calls to the university went unanswered Thursday.

The television report sparked protests on China's popular microblogs. "The police are garbage, calling it a suicide is the easiest way to solve the case," posted one user.

"This girl really had to be strong, she was not only brave enough to die, she was also brave enough to die slowly, cut-by-cut," said another posting.

"This is really a creative way to commit suicide. You police can believe this, but damn it, I don't believe."

The case comes after Chinese authorities said the death of leading dissident Li Wangyang -- who served 22 years in prison following the quelling of the 1989 Tiananmen Democracy protests -- was suicide, sparking uproar among activists.

Li, who was blind, nearly deaf and barely able to walk, was found hanging by a bandage from the windowsill of his hospital ward, with both feet on the ground.

He died days after an interview with Hong Kong journalists in which he vowed to continue to fight for democracy in China.


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China's contemporary music scene takes off
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After decades struggling with official censorship, China's contemporary music scene is finally taking off, fuelled by live shows, the Internet and a government eager to cash in on a growing market. Chinese indie bands came late to the music scene, largely missing out on the lucrative days of vinyl records, cassettes and compact discs, and also suffered enormously from state broadcasters' pre ... read more

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