Scores of people have been arrested in a traditionally Tibetan area of western China following public calls for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reports said yesterday.
Police and army reinforcements were sent to the town of Lithang in Sichuan Province following the incident on Wednesday at an annual horse festival that attracted thousands of people, the overseas monitoring group International Campaign for Tibet and the US government-supported Radio Free Asia (RFA) said.
The reports said a local resident, Runggye Adak, was detained after he climbed onto a stage erected for Chinese officials, grabbed a microphone and asked the crowd if they wanted the Dalai Lama to return.
Other residents appealed to police and local officials to release him, leading officers to fire warning shots to disperse the crowd outside the local detention center.
RFA said about 200 Tibetans were taken into custody following the protest, but gave no indication whether any had been released.
International Campaign for Tibet said additional arrests were reported, but gave no figures or estimates.
A woman who answered the telephone at Lithang's police station confirmed the protest had occurred, but hung up when asked for details.
"Everything is now back to normal," said the woman, who like most Chinese police officers refused to give her name.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Tibetans remain strongly loyal to the Buddhist leader, despite persistent efforts to demonize him by the Chinese authorities.