On December 2, Western media reported that a 46-year-old former monk set himself on fire to protest against the Chinese government's rule of Tibet.

If true, this act of self-immolation by the Tibetan monk marks the 12th instance since March.

One 72-year-old Tibetan monk interviewed by the Washington Post claimed the acts of self-immolation, mostly by young Tibetan monks and nuns, are spontaneous reactions (i.e. not masterminded by older Tibetan spiritual leaders).

However, he acknowledged that some senior monks think the death of those young monks is valuable because they might force the [Chinese] government to change its policy.

The Chinese government, contrastingly, sees the wave of self-immolations as primarily a conspiracy perpetrated by older Tibetan religious leaders. 

Editor-in-chief of the China Tibetology Publishing House Hua Zi, writing on stated-owned paper China Daily, claimed the self-immolating youths are manipulated by older religious leaders who advocate the Tibetan independence plot.

It is brutal and terrorist behavior to incite young Tibetans, who lack any basic knowledge and background about the real nature of the 'Tibetan freedom campaign' and 'Tibetan independence,' to commit suicide, wrote Hua.

He claimed the motivation behind the Tibetan independence movement is a desire to return Tibet to a feudal theocracy and restore the privileged status of the religious leaders.

Religious extremism poses a threat to any country's national security and social stability if not effectively contained and eventually uprooted, wrote Hua.

A China Daily commentary dated Dec. 5 stated that self-immolation breaks one of the core tenets of Buddhism in an extreme and brutal way, which is not killing or harming any living being (including oneself).

Those that encourage monks and nuns to commit self-immolation are engaged in religious extremism and terrorism, which is why such suicides are committed in public in such a dramatic way, stated the commentary.

In the past few hundred years, Tibet has largely been under the domination of various neighboring empires.  From 1911 to 1950, it was briefly governed autonomously by a theocratic regime.

Since 1951, Tibet has been under the authority of the Chinese government.  The Tibetan government-in-exile, however, claims Tibet is illegally occupied by China.