The protest of hundreds of mostly high school students urged freedom from Chinese rule for Tibet.
BEIJING — Hundreds of Tibetans demonstrated in a western China town Friday, calling for freedom from Chinese rule, in the latest act of protest apparently timed to send a signal to the Communist Party elite as it gathers in Beijing to induct a new leadership, witnesses said.
The protesters, mostly high school students, marched through the town of Rongwo, shouting for independence and for the return from exile of their leader the Dalai Lama, according to residents and people visiting the town.
"It was chaos this morning," said a Tibetan painter who lives nearby.
Government offices in Rongwo or the county overseeing it either declined comment or did not answer telephone calls.
Police kept watch over the protest but did not immediately make any arrests, said an auto mechanic who would give only his surname, Ma.
The protest was the largest demonstration after days of growing tensions in the town, which sits at the edge of the Tibetan plateau and is dominated by a 600-year-old Buddhist monastery.
The march also comes after five Tibetans set themselves on fire this week, two of them in the area near Rongwo. The immolations are the latest in more than 50 such acts over the past year that Tibetans said shows their growing desperation living under tighter religious and social controls imposed by China.
Tibet support groups overseas said the uptick in protests in recent days is meant to highlight Tibetan unhappiness as current Chinese leaders begin to hand over power to younger successors at a party congress in Beijing.