BEIJING — Vowing a harsh crackdown, Chinese police conducted house-to-house searches Monday in central Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and rounded up hundreds of Tibetans suspected of participating in a deadly outburst of anti-Chinese violence, exile groups and residents reported.
The arrests suggest that the Chinese government has decided to crush the protests despite calls for restraint from abroad and warnings that heavy-handed repression could taint the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Today, Premier Wen Jiabao said that the unrest was instigated by the exiled Dalai Lama and proved that his claims of seeking peaceful dialogue with China "are nothing but lies."
Wen, in China's first senior-level response to the rioting in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas of the country, said the violence Friday in Lhasa was particularly "cruel" and caused great harm to the city and its inhabitants.
The Tibetan protests began March 10 on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising. Tibet had been effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops entered in 1950.
Tibet's China-appointed governor, Champa Phuntsok, said on Monday that 13 people were killed in Friday's unrest. But the Dalai Lama's exile organization said Tibetans reported by telephone and Internet that they had seen about 80 bodies, identifying them as Tibetans.
With access to Tibet restricted, there was no way to assess the accuracy of the two reports.
In a widely broadcast announcement, the government had given rioters until midnight Monday to turn themselves in. But Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, said he was told by telephone that about 600 Tibetans had been arrested before nightfall.
At least two other people in Lhasa reported sweeps by police.