At least two people have died in fresh protests in a Tibetan part of western China, reports said on Tuesday, as authorities made arrests in Tibet's capital Lhasa in an effort to reassert control over the restive region.
State media said one police officer was killed and the exiled Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported one Tibetan protester shot dead and another critically hurt after unrest in Sichuan's Ganzi (Garze) Tibetan Prefecture.
"The police were forced to fire warning shots, and dispersed the lawless mobsters," the brief Xinhua report said, without mentioning any deaths of protesters, who it said attacked with rocks and knives.
The latest news of unrest and arrests comes after protesters seeking to put pressure on China tried to disrupt the Beijing Olympic Games torch lighting ceremony in Greece, an act that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called "disgraceful".
Beijing had hoped the torch's journey around the world and through China would be a symbol of confident national unity ahead of the Games, which open on August 8. Instead, it is caught in a war of words with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, and his supporters.
The 72-year-old Dalai Lama denies that he is behind the unrest in Tibetan parts of western China, and his government-in-exile says 140 people have died in the violence. China has barred foreign journalists from the remote, mountain region, making the competing claims difficult to independently check.
In Lhasa, 13 people were arrested for a March 10 protest, the Tibet Daily reported — the first announcement of consequences for those involved in that largely peaceful march. Monks yelled "reactionary slogans" and held up a banner of snow-mountain lions, the Daily said.
Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said the arrests of apparently peaceful protesters marked a turn in the security crackdown in Tibet towards political targets.
"This official account gives credence to the fact that the protests in Lhasa started peacefully, and only in subsequent days, after repeated police suppression, did they become violent," said Bequelin.
China's Minister for Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, made an inspection tour of Lhasa and vowed stricter management of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the Tibet Daily reported.
The riot "not only violated the law, it also seriously violated the fundamental teachings of Tibetan Buddhism", the newspaper quoted Meng as saying, adding the Dalai Lama had long been disqualified as a true Buddhist. "We must continue to deepen patriotic education in the monasteries," Meng said.
The ongoing unrest heightens the government's prospects of facing worldwide protests as the Olympic torch circles the globe. Exiled Tibetans have pledged to demonstrate against the torch, and Human Rights Watch said the torch should not go through Tibet unless China agrees to an independent investigation into the unrest there.