BEIJING, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Three Tibetan shepherds set themselves on fire to protest political and religious persecution by the Chinese government, The New York Times reported.
The self-immolations occurred Friday in a small village in Sichuan province, the Times said. Tibetan poet Tsering Woeser of Beijing said one of the three men died and the other two were seriously burned.
Word of the incidents was slow to get out because the government had halted Internet and telephone service in the area, she said.
Self-immolation has been a drastic tactic used by some Tibetan clergy but has been rare among the general population, the Times noted.
Chinese officials have been working to curtail an outbreak of unrest among ethnic Tibetans since riots in Lhasa in 2008. Chinese authorities blame Tibetan separatists for the violence.
"There is a lot of frustration in the Tibetan areas," said Robert Barnett, director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University in New York. "People are saying they aren't being listened to; the government didn't respond constructively to the protests in 2008 and didn't respond constructively to the whole year we've seen of self-immolations."