LHASA, China The Olympic torch made its way Saturday through Tibet's sealed-off capital, site of a March crackdown on rioting that helped fuel demonstrations at some of the flame's international stops.
Torch bearers started their run through Lhasa's streets at 9 a.m., a day after officials announced additional sentences handed down over the anti-government riots.
The 6.8-mile run began at Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace from where Tibet's traditional Buddhist leader fled into exile in 1959. The relay will end at the hilltop Potala Palace, the traditional seat of Tibetan rulers.
Police and soldiers lined the route, keeping a close eye on flag-waving onlookers arrayed on either side.
On Friday, Palma Trily, the vice-governor of Tibet's Chinese-appointed administration, said he was confident that Saturday's relay would pass through the city without incident.
Trily also used the briefing to announce that 12 more people had been sentenced for taking part in a March 14 riot in the city that spawned further protests throughout Tibetan-inhabited regions of western China. He gave no details about their offenses or the punishments meted out.
Trily said another 1,157 people had been released from detention over minor offenses related to the violent anti-government protests, in which Beijing says 22 people died.
Foreign Tibet supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and a subsequent crackdown.
Chinese officials say the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, was behind the March unrest. They also accuse the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate of trying to sabotage the Beijing Olympics and preparing "suicide squads" to carry out attacks. The Dalai Lama has denied the charges.
Tibet has been under a security clampdown since March and is still closed to foreign tourists. Foreign journalists have been allowed to visit only as part of closely monitored government tours.
Activist groups say the torch relay leg in Tibet and a separate relay to the peak of Mount Everest are an attempt by Chinese leaders to symbolize their control over the Himalayan region.
China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially independent for much of that time.
The torch was originally supposed to go through Tibet earlier this week. It was unclear why organizers changed the date.
Organizers also said last month that the Tibetan leg, originally set for three days, would be cut to one day to make way for a switch in the visit to Sichuan province, the center of a May 12 earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people.
New York-based Human Rights in China called the Lhasa relay a "provocative decision" that harmed efforts to "find a peaceful long-term solution for Tibet and the region."
"The government's insistence on parading the torch through Lhasa can only undermine the respect and trust required for a genuine dialogue process with the Dalai Lama," the group's Executive Director Sharon Hom was quoted as saying in a news release.
Amnesty International, which earlier this year expressed concern over the fate of those detained after the spring protests, said it was heartened by word of the released detainees.
"We are encouraged by the news of the release of 1,157 people and we look forward to receiving information about the trials of the 116 people in custody announced by the Tibetan authorities," the group said.
In his comments to reporters Friday, Palma Trily repeated China's routine criticism of the Tibetan exile community, but said stability had been restored following renewed political indoctrination campaigns in Buddhist monasteries that are a hotbed of anti-Beijing sentiment.
"Their ultimate goal is to damage the happy life of the people in Tibet," he said.
"After this period of re-education, the vast majority of temples and monasteries have returned to normal religious activities. Stability has been returned and public order has been restored," Palma Trily said.