BEIJING - More than 1,000 people have been arrested or turned themselves in to police after deadly rioting last month in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, the city's deputy Communist Party secretary said.
Trials will be held before May 1, Wang Xiangming was quoted as saying Thursday by the official Tibet Commerce newspaper, an apparent sign of the government's determination to close the book on the violence well ahead of the Aug. 8 opening of the Beijing Olympic Games.
Wang's remarks offer the most complete picture yet of the scope of the crackdown on the largest and most sustained anti-government protests in Tibetan areas across western China in almost two decades.
Beijing has sent thousands of police and army troops to the area to maintain an edgy peace, hunt down protest leaders, and cordon-off Buddhist monasteries whose monks led protests that began peacefully on March 10 before turning violent four days later.
Wang said 800 had been arrested in the Lhasa violence, while another 280 had surrendered to take advantage of a police offer of leniency.
Chinese officials have put the death toll at 22 and Tibetan exiles say nearly 140 people were killed.
Alongside the ramped-up security, the region's top officials have ordered boosted ideological education and ramped-up propaganda in Tibet to build anti-separatist sentiment and to vilify the Dalai Lama after the protests, another official newspaper said Thursday.
Such campaigns have exacerbated tensions in Tibet and the resentments they created are believed by experts and Tibetans to have fed into the unrest.
The region's hardline Communist Party leader also ordered harsh punishment for local party officials found lacking in their commitment to Beijing's official line, following the sometimes violent anti-government protests and the harsh crackdown that followed.
Also indicating Beijing's haste to return Tibet to normal, the regional tourism authority announced Thursday that the region would reopen to foreign tourist groups on May 1, in time for a national three-day vacation.
Tour operators, hotels and restaurant owners have complained of major losses due to the closure of the region's borders as part of a massive security clampdown.
China has accused the 72-year-old Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who is based in India, of orchestrating the violence to sabotage the Beijing Summer Olympic Games and create an independent state.
The Dalai Lama has denied the charges, calling on Beijing to open a dialogue and examine the economic, ethnic and religious issues he blames for fueling anger among Tibetans.
The Tibet Daily newspaper quoted regional party chief Zhang Qingli as ordering officials to maintain their guard against future plots by the "Dalai clique."
Zhang ordered officials to boost ideological education among young people, focusing on negative portrayals of Tibet prior to the communist invasion in 1950 and continued vilification of the Dalai Lama's political agenda.
"Unceasingly build up the foundation of the masses to oppose separatism," Zhang was quoted as saying.
While China has repeatedly claimed overwhelming support for its policies in Tibet, it has had to bolster those with repeated ideological campaigns and heightened restrictions over religious observance and monastic life.
Already, officials including the national police chief have ordered boosted "patriotic campaigns" in monasteries whose monks led protests that began peacefully on March 10 before turning deadly four days later.
In an even more revealing statement, Zhang appeared to indicate at least some local officials had shown themselves as insufficiently loyal during the recent unrest.
"We absolutely will not condone violations of political and organizational discipline and will definitely find those responsible and meet out harsh punishment," said Zhang, a protege of president and party chief Hu Jintao, who was the communist boss of Tibet during the last major protests there in 1989.
Formerly a top official in another ethnically troubled region, Xinjiang, Zhang has reportedly already overseen the firing of dozens of ethnically Tibetan officials seen as politically unreliable.
Many Tibetans insist they were an independent nation before communist troops invaded in 1950, while radical Islamic groups in Xinjiang have battled Chinese rule through a low-intensity campaign of bombings and assassination.
Critics say Zhang's twin policies of massive government investment and intense political repression in both regions may have helped breed resentment among their native populations, many among whom feel left behind by economic growth and marginalized by the arrival of migrants from China's majority Han ethnic group.