BEIJING — Bonfires, shops and the Chinese flag burning in the capital of Tibet. Riot police backed by armored vehicles guarding Lhasa's streets. Crimson-robed monks carrying the banned Tibetan flag.
China's attempt to portray a peaceful and prosperous nation ahead of the Summer Olympics took another hit Friday when demonstrations captured on cell phone cameras and led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in Tibet turned violent.
From exile in India, the Dalai Lama appealed to China not to use force to end the largest demonstrations in nearly two decades against Beijing's 57-year rule. China's government in Tibet accused the Dalai Lama's supporters of inciting the unrest and imposed a curfew.
Eyewitness accounts and photos posted on the Internet portrayed a chaotic scene in Lhasa, the provincial capital of Tibet, with crowds hurling rocks at security forces, hotels and restaurants.
A Chinese state news agency said early Saturday that seven people had been confirmed dead in the rioting in Lhasa.
Psurbu Tsering of the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey said its members had received calls from Tibet claiming 70 people had been killed and 1,000 arrested. The reports could not be verified.
The violence came on the fifth day of sporadic and largely peaceful protests.
But on Friday, in an ominous turn for Beijing, the street protests broadened. Photographs taken by phone cameras and provided by the Indian branch of Students for a Free Tibet showed hundreds of Tibetans marching through Xiahe, a Tibetan town in the western province of Gansu. Robed monks displayed the banned Tibetan national flag.
In Lhasa, protests that had largely been confined to monks expanded to ordinary Tibetans.
"Monks and very young men down to the age of 15-16 are smashing the Chinese shops, kicking in doors and windows, setting the shops on fire and beating the Chinese in the vicinity," the Danish daily Politiken quoted an unidentified witness as saying.
Friday's violence apparently was triggered after police moved in to stop a group of protesting monks.
The timing of the August Olympics in Beijing has been a key factor for pro-independence advocates, said Kate Saunders, with the International Campaign for Tibet.
"There's an awareness in Tibet of the international spotlight on China and of the way that groups outside and individuals from different organizations are actively using the global spotlight to press for change in China," she said.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture. He said President Bush has said consistently that Beijing needs a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
India: Police clashed with scores of pro-Tibet protesters near the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, arresting dozens.
Nepal: Police scuffled with about 1,000 protesters, including monks, during a rally in Katmandu.
U.N.: Dozens of Tibetans held a noisy protest outside the United Nations; six were arrested.