LHASA, China – The Olympic flame traveled to Tibet's isolated capital Friday, and an official sentences handed down following anti-government riots that rocked the city three months ago.
The torch relay, which was disrupted during its international stops by anti-China protests — including Beijing's policies in Tibet — was scheduled to kick off in Lhasa at 9 a.m. Saturday (9 p.m. EDT Friday).
The 6.8-mile run is scheduled to begin at Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, and end at the hilltop Potala Palace, the traditional seat of Tibetan rulers, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported. Tight security was expected in light of anti-government rioting on March 14 in Lhasa and subsequent protests throughout Tibetan-inhabited regions of western China.
On Friday, shops were open and people walked around in the center of Lhasa, where banners saying "Go China" and "Go Olympics" were displayed.
Groups of police were visible on virtually every corner and a truckload of riot troops stood watch in the city center. Police stopped an AP Television News cameraman from shooting street scenes and forced him to erase footage of security arrangements.
At a briefing for reporters, the vice governor of Tibet's Chinese-appointed administration said 12 more people had been sentenced for taking part in the rioting.
Palma Trily gave no details of their offenses or punishments, but said another 1,157 people had been released from detention for minor offenses related to the violent anti-government protests, in which the government 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.
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.
Activist groups say the torch relay 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.
During the Lhasa leg, the Olympic flame will be reunited with the one that was carried to the summit of Everest last month.
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.
The torch has thus far had a smooth run in China, undisturbed by the protests over Tibet and human rights that hounded its appearance in London, Paris, San Francisco and elsewhere.