WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on China to exercise restraint in dealing with protests in Tibet as the State Department issued a travel alert Saturday for Americans in the region.
"I am deeply saddened to learn that the turmoil that erupted (Friday) in Lhasa following what began as peaceful protests has resulted in the loss of lives, and I am concerned that the violence appears to be continuing," Rice said. "I also am concerned by reports of a sharply increased police and military presence in and around Lhasa. We call on the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with these protests, and we strongly urge all sides to refrain from violence."
She also called for China to release monks and others jailed for protesting.
Her statement was issued after Chinese soldiers on foot and in armored carriers swarmed Tibet's capital of Lhasa on Saturday, enforcing a strict curfew a day after protesters burned shops and cars to vent their anger against Chinese rule. In another western city, police clashed with hundreds of Buddhist monks leading a sympathy demonstration.
China's official Xinhua News Agency reported at least 10 civilians were burned to death on Friday. The Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government in India said Chinese authorities killed at least 30 Tibetans and possibly as many as 100. The figures could not be independently verified.
Police manned checkpoints and armored personnel carriers rattled on mostly empty streets in Lhasa as people stayed indoors under a curfew, witnesses said. The show of force imposed a tense quiet.
"American citizens in Tibet and especially in Lhasa are advised to avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place," said the State Department travel alert issued along with Rice's statement. "U.S. citizens in Lhasa should seek safe havens in hotels and other buildings and remain indoors to the extent possible. Americans are advised to defer travel to Tibet at this time."
The alert said the U.S. Embassy in China "has received reports from American citizens in the city who report gunfire, rioting and other violence" and that assistance to Americans may be limited because U.S. consular personnel "have not yet been granted access" to the region.
"President Bush has consistently encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama directly and through his representatives so that long-standing issues with regard to Tibet may be resolved," Rice said. "We urge China to respect the fundamental and universally recognized right of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and religious views, and we call on China to release monks and others who have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views. We also urge China to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to their impact on Tibetan religion, culture and livelihoods."