Peaceful protests began in Lhasa on March 10, marking the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, but escalated into widespread violence across the city on March 14.

 

China moved quickly to squash the protests in Lhasa, but other protests broke out elsewhere in Tibet and in Tibetan regions of neighbouring Chinese provinces.

Public perception

 

Al Jazeera's Beijing correspondent, Melissa Chan, says very little known about the people sentenced, including their names or their supposed role in the unrest.

 

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But she says from a domestic standpoint the Chinese government is eager to show the Chinese people that it is doing something about the rioting and putting the people it says were responsible in jail.

The state-run CCTV reported that three of the accused were given life sentences, while seven others were handed jail terms of 15 years or more.

They were reportedly jailed for crimes including arson, looting, attacking state organs, theft, and provoking fights.

Xinhua said the Lhasa violence left seven schools, five hospitals and 120 homes torched and more than 900 shops looted. Total damage was more than 244 million yuan ($35 million).

'Punished by law'

Jiang Yu, Chinese forign ministry spokesman, defended the handling of the cases.
  
"While handling the March 14 incident, the Chinese government has all along proceeded according to law," Jiang said.
  
The Chinese crackdown has triggered
protests around the world [Reuters]
"Those who break Chinese law should be punished by law. I believe that's universal practice. I believe competent authorities will deal with the lawbreakers based on the specifics, according to law and in a fair and just way."

 

China has blamed Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his government in exile for plotting the riots. 

 

However, last week state media quoted senior government officials as saying they had agreed to hold talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama.

 

The surprise announcement followed weeks of protests around the world over China's crackdown on the unrest in Tibet.

 

International anger over the crackdown has also disrupted several legs of the global Olympic torch relay causing embarrassment for games organisers.