For the first time, China has admitted that anti-beijing protests have spread outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as security is ratcheted up.
On Sunday, in Sichuan, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported huge damage after riots, to government buildings and shops.
Officials said that 24 suspects had been arrested, on charges of endangering state security and other “grave crimes”. And they also said that 170 protesters had surrendered to authorities, who had threatened “harsh punishment” for those who failed to meet a Monday deadline.
All that is intensifying a crackdown on anti-government unrest in Tibet, which has left dozens of protesters dead.
Hundreds of troops have been seen pouring into Tibetan areas. And the authorities have placed strict limits on Western journalists who are trying to report on the unrest. Georg Blume, a German journalist who was forced out of Lhasa on Thursday, has been told by security forces that he was the last foreign journalist in the city.
Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has repeated his willingness to meet Hu Jintao, Chinese President, if he receives “concrete indications” of what the Chinese can offer.
Gordon Brown will meet the Dalai Lama
But since the beginning of the protests on March 10, senior Chinese officials have kept on accusing the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the protests from Dharamsala, his base in India. On Thursday, the foreign ministry once again labelled him a “splittist”.
Chinese and Tibetan sources have given very different accounts of the protests. Xinhua has published graphic articles that describe the violence and blame on rioters, saying 13 people were stabbed or burnt to death in unrest in Lhasa. The agency referred to protesters as “mobsters”.
On the other hand, Tibetan exiles say that at least 99 people have died so far, including 80 in Lhasa. They also accuse security forces of firing on crowds.
Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, said China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao had told him he was open to talks, under certain conditions. Mr Brown said he had told him that he would meet the Dalai Lama in May, during a visit to London, and that the violence in Tibet must end.