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China sentences 55 people over Tibet riots

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China has sentenced 55 people for their involvement in anti-government protests that broke out in Tibet in March, state media reported Wednesday.

Following the riots in Lhasa, Chinese police detained about 1,300 people, the Xinhua news agency said. About 1,100 of them were later released.

The rest were put on trial.

Xinhua did not say what the 55 sentenced Wednesday were charged with or what sentences they received.

It also did not say whether the group included 30 people convicted in April of arson, robbery and attacking government offices in connection with the riots. Those people received sentences ranging from three years to life.

The anti-Chinese protests, initiated by Buddhist monks, began peacefully in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 14 -- the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule that sent Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile in northern India.

The protests soon turned violent, with demonstrators burning vehicles and shops.

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Some protesters advocated independence from China, while others demonstrated against the growing influence of ethnic Han Chinese in Tibet and other regions of China with ethnic Tibetan populations.

The subsequent crackdown left 18 civilians and one police officer dead, according to the Chinese government. Tibet's self-proclaimed government-in-exile put the death toll from the protests at 140.

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Beijing blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for the riots.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not advocate violence or a separate and independent Tibet. He has said he wants a genuine autonomy that preserves the cultural heritage of Tibet.

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