As China witnessed the worst-ever communal clashes, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Wednesday expressed concern over the "worsening situation" there and asked Beijing to exercise "restraint" in dealing with the crisis.
"I am deeply saddened and concerned with the worsening situation in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), especially with tragic loss of lives," he said in a statement.
The spiritual leader, who has been demanding greater autonomy for Tibet, said the crisis needs to be dealt with in a spirit of understanding and farsightedness. "I earnestly urge the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation in a spirit of understanding and farsightedness," he said.
He offered prayers for those who lost their lives by the "sad turn of events".
President Hu Jintao had to cut short his visit to Italy for the G-8 Summit on Wednesday as Uyghur Muslims and Han Chinese settlers fought pitched street battles prompting the government to deploy more troops in the restive northwest region to stem the violence.
While Chinese officials claimed that the massive riots had left 156 dead, exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer put the toll as high as 500.