BEIJING More than 1,000 people have been arrested or surrendered after deadly rioting last month in the Tibetan capital, and trials will be held before May, the city's deputy Communist Party secretary said.
The statement is an apparent sign of the government's determination to close the book on the violence well ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
Wang Xiangming's remarks in the official Tibet Commerce newspaper also offer the most complete picture yet of the scope of the crackdown on the largest 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 but Tibetan exiles say nearly 140 people were killed.
Police this week rounded up foreign reporters trying to enter Aba prefecture, a primarily Tibetan area in Sichuan province, and escorted them back to the provincial capital, Chengdu.
"This area should be open after the Olympics, but I can't guarantee that," said Wang Qing, head of the foreign affairs office in Danba town, a two-hour drive from Aba. "This is not a stable place," However, he said he knew of no problems.
Efforts to keep information about the clampdown from leaking out are easily felt, especially at monasteries. In Kangding, the head lama of the Nanwu monastery said he couldn't speak to the media without a government official present. Monks shied away from an AP photographer.
Aba's deputy chief Xiao Youcai confirmed shots were fired, but said he knew of no deaths or specific injuries despite earlier state media reports that police shot and wounded four rioters "in self defense."
Xiao said investigations and arrests were continuing, but refused to give figures.
He repeated earlier claims that authorities found a stash of guns, knives and explosives in a local monastery, but refused to say whether they had been used in the March 16 attack.
Xiao insisted the Aba violence had also been orchestrated by the Dalai Lama's supporters and proceeded along the same lines as the Lhasa attack.
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.
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.
In Katmandu, Nepal, Tibetan exiles decided to temporarily halt protests in the capital because of crucial local elections, activists said Thursday.