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As Tibetan self-immolations rise, Beijing tightens grip

• http://www.reuters.com, By Michael Martina

Some experts have said Communist Party chief Xi Jinping -- whose former vice premier father had a close bond with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama -- might adopt a more reformist approach to the troubled mountainous region when he takes over as president in March.

  But so far, the anti-China protests, including 81 burning cases this year, have only been met with an intensified crackdown by Chinese security forces. 

Beijing has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the remote region suffered from dire poverty, brutal exploitation of serfs and economic stagnation until 1950 when Communist troops "peacefully liberated" it.

  The country's top court and public security authorities have now issued a directive that allows for criminal charges, including intentional homicide, to be filed against self-immolators and anyone who "organizes, plots, incites, coerces, entices, abets, or assists others" in such protest. 

An official southwestern Gansu province newspaper explained the order on its website last week, saying authorities should prevent people from gathering to mourn a self-immolator or collect money for family members. 

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