( dpa ) - Chinese authorities on Saturday deployed troops and tanks in Lhasa, demanding that Tibetan rioters surrender to police or face more serious punishment for the violence that reportedly claimed dozens of lives following escalating pro- independence protests.
"We have unconfirmed reports that about 100 people have been killed and martial law imposed in Lhasa," the Tibetan government-in- exile, based in the Indian city of Dharamsala, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, further demonstrations were taking place in Lhasa, with reports of gunshots by Chinese security forces, according to the organization Free Tibet Campaign citing an interview by the British broadcaster ITV with a witness.
Exile Tibetan sources also report that Buddhist monks have also demonstrated at the Labrang Tashikyil monastary in Sangchu in the Chinese province of Gansu in solidarity with Tibetans.
US-based Radio Free Asia on Saturday quoted Tibetans in Lhasa as saying up to 80 people could have died in the rioting.
"There could be about 80 dead, or more, but there is too much commotion here to give an exact number," the broadcaster quoted one Tibetan witness as saying.
The Indian-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said at least 25 people were believed to have died around the Ramoche monastery, Jokhang temple and Thomsigkhang market in central Lhasa on Friday.
"Confirmed information indicates that hundreds of Tibetans injured in yesterday's protest are hospitalized in various hospitals for treatment," the centre said.
State television on Saturday broadcast its first footage of the rioting, showing burning buildings and vehicles, and groups of protesters breaking into shops apparently unchallenged by police.
"The outbreak of violence died down in Lhasa Friday night, after a tumultuous day that saw windows smashed, shops robbed, a mosque burnt down and reportedly many casualties," the government's official Xinhua news agency said.
The agency quoted officials as saying that at least 10 "innocent civilians," including two hotel employees and two shop owners, had died in some of the 60 fires recorded in the city on Friday,
"The number of injured and other losses kept rising" and "many policemen on duty were badly injured," it said without elaborating.
Paramilitary police rescued some 580 people, including three Japanese tourists, from banks, supermarkets, schools and hospitals that were set alight, it said.
The rioters would be treated leniently if they turned themselves in by midnight on Monday, and unspecified rewards and protection would be given to anyone providing information on the violence, said a joint notice from the high court, police and state prosecutors in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
State media quoted the notice as saying the protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa, the regional capital, since Monday were a "political conspiracy" by supporters of the exiled Dalai Lama, the highest leader of Tibetan Buddhism.
But state media reports denied that the police had opened fire on protesters and said they had only fired warning shots.
Radio Free Asia said youths attacked police and businesses run by non-Tibetans during the rioting.
"Several buildings owned by Chinese immigrants and Chinese Muslim immigrants were set on fire," one witness told the broadcaster.
"All those shops owned by Chinese were ransacked and burned. Tibetan shop owners were told to mark their shops with scarves," he said.
The broadcaster reported that police had "fired into the crowds" of rioters, but the government on Saturday denied the charge.
"We fired no gunshots," Xinhua quoted Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government, as saying in Beijing on Saturday.
The agency quoted officials as saying the police were "ordered not to use force against the attackers."
"But they were forced to use a limited amount of tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the desperate crowds," it said.
Friday's rioting followed protests by Tibetan monks that began Monday, the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule that was crushed by troops.
The protests have since spread to several other monasteries in other Tibetan areas of China.