Beijing has stepped up its efforts to blame the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, for the protests, in which nearly 100 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have set themselves on fire since 2009.
The harsh measures are a sign new Chinese leaders installed in November are not easing up on Tibet despite international condemnation.
The protesters are calling for Beijing to allow greater religious freedom and the return from exile of the Dalai Lama, who lives in India.
The latest detentions took place in an ethnic Tibetan area of Qinghai province, which borders Tibet, the government’s Xinhua news agency announced late on Thursday. It said 12 of those detained were formally arrested but gave no details of the charges.
Beijing has responded to the protests by sending in security forces to seal off areas and prevent information from getting out, arresting protesters’ friends and seizing satellite TV dishes. Despite that, the pace of self-immolations accelerated in November as the ruling Communist party held a leadership transition.
The government has blamed the burnings on hostile foreign forces that want to separate Tibet from the mainland.
The burnings have galvanised many Tibetans, who see them as selfless acts of sacrifice, making it hard for authorities to denounce the immolators.
On Thursday, Voice of America, a US-government-financed broadcaster, denied accusations by Chinese state television and a government newspaper that it encouraged the burnings. The US state department has expressed concern about the “deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas” and the use of criminal laws against people associated with protesters.
“Our concern is that there are deep grievances within the Tibetan population which are not being addressed openly and through dialogue by the Chinese government,” said a department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland.
Nuland said Washington urged Beijing to “engage in a substantive dialogue” with the Dalai Lama. “We continue to call on Chinese government officials to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly and peacefully, without fear of retribution,” she said. (The Guardian)