Image: Armed police patrol a street in Chengdu, China, as ethnic Tibetans walk past
Peter Parks  /  AFP - Getty Images
Armed police patrol a street in Chengdu in China's Sichuan province as ethnic Tibetans walk past on Jan. 27. China's government is trying to keep the protests in Sichuan from spilling into Tibet proper.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/31/2012 4:01:32 AM ET 2012-01-31T09:01:32

A senior official in Chinese-ruled Tibet has ordered heightened security in Buddhist monasteries and along key roadways as the government tries to prevent protests that erupted in neighboring Tibetan communities from spreading.

Inspecting security around the Tibetan capital of Lhasa this week, the city's Communist Party secretary, Qi Zhala, warned officials and clerics at monasteries that they would be dismissed if any trouble arose and told police at a highway checkpoint to be alert for acts of sabotage.

Officials "must profoundly recognize the important significance of preserving stability in temples and monasteries," the state-run Tibet Daily on Tuesday quoted Qi as saying Monday. "Strive to realize the goal of 'no big incidents, no medium incidents and not even a small incident.'"

The exhortations underscore China's nervousness as it tries to squelch the most serious outbreak of anti-government protests among Tibetans in nearly four years.

Tibetan areas in the neighboring province of Sichuan — on tenterhooks for more than a year as more than a dozen monks, nuns and lay people separately set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule — saw large demonstrations last week. Police fired on crowds in three separate areas, leaving several Tibetans dead and injuring dozens, according to Tibet support groups outside China.

Slideshow: The Dalai Lama (on this page)

U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero said in a statement last week that the United States was "gravely concerned" about the reports of violence.

The violence has highlighted anew the government's failure to win over Tibetans and other ethnic minorities through policies to boost economic growth and incomes while increasing police presence and controlling religious practices to deter displays of separatism. State media announced Monday that 8,000 additional police were being recruited in Xinjiang, a traditionally Muslim region north of Tibet that has its own separatist rebellion.

Before the latest protests, Chinese security forces were already hunkering down for an annual period of tensions in Tibetan areas: the weeks between the Tibetan new year, which this year falls in late February, and a string of anniversaries in March marking previous anti-Chinese uprisings.

A crucial task for the government is to keep the protests in Sichuan from spilling into Tibet proper, especially Lhasa, home to major monasteries that have been at the forefront of previous unrest. In 2008, rioting in Lhasa left at least 22 people dead.

'Held accountable'
Among the stops Qi, the Lhasa official, made on his inspection tour was a key roadway leading from Sichuan into the capital and two major monasteries on the city's outskirts.

Qi spoke with members of the monasteries' management committees. The committees are comprised of officials and clerics that Beijing has set up in Tibetan religious institutes to purge them of followers of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader in exile in India. The groups and their controls have contributed to the tensions behind the protests.

"They who do not do their jobs responsibly, if any problems happen, will be fired immediately without exception and will be strictly held accountable," Qi was quoted as saying.

Video: Dalai Lama to US: ‘Keep your spirit’ (on this page)

Meanwhile, an editorial in China's official English-language China Daily on Monday said exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing brands a "splittist," was eager to stir up trouble to garner Western support.

"In today's world, a handful of extremists have the ability to cause havoc to a region or even a country," the China Daily said, adding that the Dalai Lama "is financed and supported by some Western governments and media with their own agenda against China."

"As usual, Western government officials and the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile spared no effort in taking the opportunity to criticize the Chinese central government," the paper said.

Timeline: Life of the Dalai Lama (on this page)

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He says he advocates a peaceful resolution of the Tibet dispute and wants authentic autonomy for Tibet, not independence.

China has ruled what it calls the Tibet Autonomous Region since Communist troops marched in in 1950. It rejects criticism that it is eroding Tibetan culture and faith, saying its rule has ended serfdom and brought development to a backward region.

The Tibetan government-in-exile has its headquarters in Dharamsala in northern India, and says it speaks for the authentic aspirations of the Tibetan people.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: The Dalai Lama

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  1. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, as a young child. He was born into a prosperous farming family in Tibet in 1935. He was enthroned as the leader of Tibet in 1950 at the age of 15 and also assumed the role of Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader. After the collapse of the Tibetan resistance movement in 1959, he fled to India. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The Dalai Lama and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi in 1961, where they discussed the plight of Tibetans who crossed the border into India during the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. When the Tibetan resistance collapsed in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India. China has ruled Tibet since then. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Pope John Paul II meets with the Dalai Lama at Vatican City in November 2003. He has met with many religious leaders over the years to promote religious dialogue. In 1989, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The Dalai Lama poses with his wax image at Madame Tussaud's in 1993 in London. He brought a pair of his own glasses for the statue. (Gerry Penny / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Dalai Lama jokes with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani before an audience of 3,000 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1997. (Adam Nadel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Dalai Lama speaks to an audience 40,000-strong at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington in July 2000. (Khue Bui / AFP-Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. President George W. Bush welcomes the Dalai Lama to the White House in 2001. (The White House via AFP - Getty) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The Dalai Lama pats a koala held by Bindi Irwin at the Australia Zoo during a tour titled "Open Arms -- Embracing Kindness" in Beerwah in June 2007. (Greg White / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A monk stands in front of Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in 2004. Before his exile, the palace was the winter home of the Dalai Lama. (Peter Parks / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The Dalai Lama presents actor Richard Gere with a traditional Tibetan ceremonial scarf during the International Campaign for Tibet 2009 Light of Truth Award in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2009. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Framed by the Tibetan flag, the Dalai Lama speaks to members of the Tibetan community on Oct. 11, 2007, in New York City. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Dalai Lama speaks with spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during the launch ceremony of Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony in New Delhi on Jan. 22, 2008. The organization aims to build a global civilization of peace, harmony and mutual enrichment. (Vijay Mathur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Dalai Lama addresses a press conference in New Delhi, on March 29, 2008. He discussed the Chinese government policy of "demographic aggression." (Manish Swarup / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pro-Tibetan protesters hold candles as they stand next to a poster of the Dalai Lama during a rally in San Francisco on April 8, 2008. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The exiled spiritual leader playfully touches fists with musician Dave Matthews after a panel discussion at Seattle's Key Arena on April 11, 2008. (Marcus Donner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Devotees watch the Tibetan spiritual leader give religious teachings at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, on Sept. 30, 2008. (Ashwini Bhatia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama gives a speech at the EU Parliament in Brussels on December 4, 2008. China warned that day that multi-billion-dollar trade ties with France could be affected by President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned meeting with the Dalai Lama. (Eric Vidal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa, right, and fellow laureates the Dalai Lama, left, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, center, are seen in Gdansk, Poland, on Dec. 5, 2008. Walesa was marking the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize win. (Czarek Sokolowski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Dalai Lama receives an honorary doctorate at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, on December 8, 2008. He expressed admiration for the nation's 1980s non-violent struggle against its now defunct communist regime. (Pawel Ulatowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Dalai Lama prays before inaugurating the installation of a hand-carved 2.5 meter-high stone statue of Lord Buddha in the compound of the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in the northern Indian city of Sarnath on Jan. 9, 2009. (Abhishek Madhukar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The Dalai Lama smiles as he is flanked by Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, left, and his wife Isabella, right, after being made an honorary citizen of the Italian city on Feb. 9, 2009. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Dalai Lama greets reporters as he arrives for a press conference at the main temple in Dharamsala, India, on March 10, 2009. In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama said he would continue to pursue the "middle path" approach despite China's crackdown on Tibetans. (Harish Tyagi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Dalai Lama speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington on Feb. 18, 2010, following a meeting with President Barack Obama. Every U.S. president for the last two decades has met with the Dailai Lama, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. The Dalai Lama announced that he will pass the reins of political power to the elected prime minister of the self-proclaimed on Thursday, March 10, 2011. Tibetan government in exile hoping to prevent a political vacuum after his death and ensure an effective response to Chinese crackdowns and Beijing's increasingly effective use of diplomatic pressure. Dalai Lama made a point of saying he wasn't retiring, and his global status and reputation ensure that he will continue to play a major role in Tibetan affairs. (David Stephenson / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Dalai Lama holds a forty-nine days memorial service for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at the Gokokuji temple in Tokyo on Friday, April 29, 2011. The 75-year-old monk, on his way to the US, offered prayers and messages to a nation in deep sorrow after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that has plunged Japan into its worst post-War crisis. (Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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Timeline: Life of the Dalai Lama

Video: Dalai Lama to US: ‘Keep your spirit’

  1. Closed captioning of: Dalai Lama to US: ‘Keep your spirit’

    >> tibet's spiritual lead e the dalai lama is in new york. i sat down with him shortly after his meeting with president obama and in our wide-ranging interview, he talked about his conversation with the president, and shared his thoughts about the spirit of american resilience. the dalai lama says he offered president obama comfort.

    >> it's my duty to call him, show my respect. the president has some sort of difficulties. so i want to show an old friend's face, really. a feeling of reunion, old friend.

    >> the president is in a fierce struggle with his political opponents over the future of the nation's finances. what is the best way, your best advice, how to find compromise with those you deeply disagree with?

    >> naturally, you have some different interests regarding your own different party. but when the nation is facing crisis, those different views of political parties is secondary. now, this economic problem is not an interest on this party or that party. it's a national sort of interest. so we must work together.

    >> and to all americans struggling --

    >> so these times of economic difficulties, no reason to discourage americans. you must keep your spirit, your determination, and hard work. that way, you can overcome these kinds of problems. it may take time, but courage. never discourage. in spite of difficulties, you must keep your self-confidence.

    >> his holiness, the dally llama llama. and later, in part two, his thoughts about china, hiand going back to tibet.

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