Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said the protests were a result of public resentment of the “brute force” employed by China to maintain control of the region for more than 50 years.
“I therefore appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people,” he said in a statement issued from his base in India.
“I also urge my fellow Tibetans not to resort to violence.”
(CNN) — Opponents of Chinese rule in Tibet set fire to vehicles and shops on Friday as tear gas filled the streets and gunfire rang out in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, according to witnesses and human rights groups.
The protests — initiated by Buddhist monks — have been growing since Monday, the anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule. Tibet, an autonomous province, has long sought independence from China.
In a statement, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader and the head of the Tibetan government in exile, said he was “deeply concerned” by the developing situation and said the protests were “a manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people” under Chinese rule.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama, exiled since 1959, for the unrest.
A report by a U.S.-funded radio station said two people had been killed. The European Union called on China to show restraint and Washington said Beijing needed to respect Tibetan culture.
The largest demonstrations in nearly two decades against Beijing’s 57-year-rule over Tibet began Monday, coming at a critically sensitive time for China as it attempts to portray a unified and prosperous country ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August.