BEIJING — China acknowledged for the first time today that antigovernment riots rocking Tibet have spread to other provinces, while communist authorities announced the first group of arrests in connection with the violence.
The acknowledgements came as the government sent armed police into far-flung towns and villages to reassert control in the Tibetan areas of western China as sporadic demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet continued to flare.
A top Beijing Olympics official vowed that the unrest would not disrupt plans for the torch relay for this summer's Olympics in Beijing. One leg of the relay is to pass through Tibet, taking the flame to the peak of Mount Everest in May.
The official Xinhua News Agency noted "riots in Tibetan-inhabited areas in the provinces of Sichuan and Gansu, both neighboring Tibet." It blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
The Tibet Daily reported that 24 people have been arrested for their roles in Friday's riots in Tibet's capital, Lhasa.
Authorities appeared to be regaining control in Tibet as well as the surrounding provinces where more than half of China's 5.4-million Tibetans live. Moving from town to town, police checked IDs and set up roadblocks.
Xinhua said late Wednesday that 170 people had surrendered for their role in last week's riots in Lhasa. China says 16 people were killed, denying claims by Tibetan exile groups that 80 died.