A top official in Chinese-ruled Tibet has ordered increased surveillance in Buddhist monasteries in an apparent effort to prevent the spread of anti-government protests by ethnic Tibetans in neighboring Sichuan province.
Qi Zhala, the Communist Party leader in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, was quoted in state media on Tuesday as saying that officials should work to "preserve stability" in Tibetan temples and monasteries.
He said authorities should "strike hard" at what he called "separatist" and "criminal" activities by those loyal to the Dalai Lama, saying not "even a small incident" should be allowed to occur.
Qi made his comments during an inspection of security facilities along a key roadway that connects the Tibetan capital to Sichuan province.
Witnesses and exile groups say up to seven Tibetan protesters died in Sichuan last week when Chinese police opened fire on them in three separate incidents.
The government is hoping the protest movement - the biggest challenge to its rule of Tibet in several years - does not spread to Tibet proper. It has ordered increased security along main highways in order to prevent "trouble-makers" from entering the region.
Beijing has acknowledged that two protesters were killed in the recent clashes. But it blames the violence on mobs that it says were attacking police. It accuses Western media and exiled Tibetan organizations of exaggerating the incidents.
The crackdown comes as authorities were already stepping up security ahead of the Tibetan new year, as well as several upcoming anniversaries of previous anti-Chinese uprisings.
China seized control of Tibet more than 50 years ago, forcing the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders to flee to northern India. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of wanting to split Tibet from the rest of China, a charge that he denies.