A surge in immolations and demonstrations by Tibetans mark new phase in protests against China

Activist groups say two dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in western China this month in a marked acceleration of the protests against authoritarian Chinese rule.

The surge in self-immolations, along with an increase in large demonstrations, mark a new phase in the Tibetan protests.

At least 86 people have set themselves on fire since the immolations began in 2009. In a change since the early months, most self-immolators now are lay people rather than Buddhist monks and nuns who can be more closely watched by the authorities because they live in tightly monitored monasteries.

The protests have also sought to avoid direct attacks on authorities and damage to government property, acts used in past to label them as riots or terrorism, providing an excuse for greater oppression.