BEIJING - Police beat and detained dozens of ethnic Tibetans during the latest protest in a restive region of western China, sparked when monks demanded the release of fellow clergy, residents and an activist group said yesterday.

Authorities clamped down quickly after the protest Thursday in Qinghai province's Tongren county, imposing an overnight curfew while police and paramilitary officers checked ID cards and residency permits, a hotel receptionist reported.

Despite a strong deployment of security forces, antigovernment protests have continued to flare up in Tibetan-inhabited areas of western China in the weeks following deadly riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

Crowds gathered in Tongren on Thursday after Buddhist monks calling for the release of clergy were joined by shoppers at a market, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

A senior monk sought to mediate, but police moved in, beating participants and detaining more than 100 monks and laypeople, said the center, which is based in the Indian town of Dharmsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Receptionists reached by phone at Tongren hotels confirmed the protest, saying the crowd had gathered near the county offices.

"Today there's no more protests. Those people were all seized," one receptionist said.

A woman at another hotel put the number of protesters in the dozens and said the Rongwo monastery had been closed to visitors. Police and paramilitary officers were checking identification cards and residency permits and imposed a curfew, she said.

"Police even came to our hotel to check on people," she said, adding that no one was allowed outside after midnight.

The receptionists refused to give their names for fear of retaliation by authorities. Officials have reportedly offered rewards for information on people leaking news of unrest to the outside world, where parts of the Olympic torch relay have been disrupted by anti-China protests.

A worker at a Tibetan restaurant near the monastery said police attacked protesters indiscriminately. "They were randomly beating people," said the woman, who gave her name only as Duoma.

The monks were demanding the release of clergy detained at a March 16 protest, during which about 100 monks climbed a hillside above the monastery, burned incense and set off fireworks, while riot police massed outside.

Yesterday, the Tibetan government-in-exile accused China's leaders of using police dressed in Tibetan clothing and monk robes to instigate violent protests to justify the crackdown.