BEIJING — Defying a massive deployment of Chinese security forces, ethnic Tibetan protesters unfurled their forbidden national flag and torched a police station as the violence that by some reports has claimed 80 lives spread into Sichuan province and other parts of western China on Sunday.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, met Sunday with reporters in the mountain town of Dharamsala, India, and told them he was powerless to stop the protests.
"It's a people's movement, so it's up to them. Whatever they do, I have to act accordingly," he was quoted as telling the BBC.
Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama, said separately the exiled movement's sources inside Tibet had counted 80 bodies of people killed in clashes over the weekend. He did not know how many of the bodies were protesters.
Tibet's governor, Champa Phuntsok, said today that 13 civilians were killed and dozens were wounded in violence that broke out Friday in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. China's state media said earlier that 10 civilians were killed.
None of the figures could be independently verified.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Beijing in a statement to show restraint and to release monks and others who have been detained.
The protests began a week ago with a peaceful procession of monks in Lhasa, and have quickly evolved into the largest outpouring of Tibetan rage against Chinese rule in 20 years.
Lhasa was like a ghost town Sunday, with residents barricaded inside and paramilitary troops and armored vehicles lining the streets. But the violence was seeping outside the borders of Tibet proper into parts of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces.
The Chinese have deployed thousands of troops, but as soon as the troops stamp out one protest, another pops up.
Complicating Beijing's task, the spreading protests fall two weeks before China's celebrations for the Beijing Olympics kick off with the start of the torch relay, which will pass through Tibet.
Chinese troops seized control of Tibet in 1950 and suppressed a rebellion in 1959. Since then, the Dalai Lama has led a self-proclaimed government in exile.
The monk, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, does not call for an independent Tibet but for more autonomy within China. Tibetans now face restrictions on the practice of religion.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.