The Dalai Lama warned Tuesday he would step down as leader of Tibet's government-in-exile if violence in Tibet continued.
The recent Lhasa protests, led by monks, began peacefully March 10 but grew increasingly violent, culminating Friday with widespread street violence.
While speaking to reporters, the Dalai Lama urged his countrymen to show restraint.
He said that "if things become out of control" his "only option is to completely resign."
The protests began on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Much of the violence has been directed against protesters, but there have also been reports of Tibetan demonstrators attacking shops and burning cars.
Chinese officials say 16 people were killed, but the Tibetan government-in-exile put the toll at 80.
The Dalai Lama's comments were later clarified by one of his top aides.
"If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence," Tenzin Takhla said. "He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama."
As the Tibetan spiritual leader, he was recognized at age 2 as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and enthroned before he turned 4. He assumed full powers at age 15, in the year that troops from Mao Zedong's newly founded communist republic entered Tibet and crushed its small army.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following the 1959 uprising, setting up his government-in-exile in Dharmsala.
Source: The Associated Press