LONDON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Human rights groups, in a letter to Chinese officials, said repressive policies prompting Tibetans to commit suicide as a form of protest must stop.
Since March at least nine Tibetan monks, or former monks, along with two nuns in Sichuan Province have set themselves on fire in protest of Chinese policy in the region. A 35-year-old nun was the latest to die after she set herself on fire last week.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, said Beijing must respect the religious rights and cultural heritage of the Tibetans.
"The Chinese authorities have not heeded the demands of Tibetans but have instead resorted to heavy-handed tactics that can only deepen and further fuel resentments," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary-general, in a statement.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetans, said China's crackdown on Tibetans was an act of "cultural genocide," the BBC reported this week.
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch added that Chinese authorities have responded to Tibetan protests with mass arrests, including the detention of 300 monks taken away for "patriotic education."
"It is clearly time for the Chinese government to fundamentally rethink its approach by listening to and addressing Tibetans' grievances," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.