BEIJING, JAN. 5 -- Despite extensive Chinese police controls, Buddhist nuns staged a small proindependence demonstration last month in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, according to foreigners in Tibet.

Felix Haller, 25, an Austrian student living in Tibet and studying the Tibetan language, informed his embassy in Beijing that police accused him of helping to incite the demonstration, embassy officials said today. Haller said he has been held under house arrest in his Lhasa hotel since Dec. 22.

Few details were available concerning the demonstration, but foreign sources said it occurred Dec. 19 near the Jokhang Temple in the center of Lhasa. The sources said about 20 nuns participated and there were unconfirmed reports that police arrested some of the nuns.

The demonstration was believed to be the first to involve nuns, and the first to be reported in Tibet since last fall, when Tibetan monks led three demonstrations against Chinese rule. A demonstration on Oct. 1 turned violent and resulted in the destruction of a Chinese police station and the death of at least six persons.

Buddhist monks subsequently reported that they were subject to a reeducation campaign conducted by Chinese authorities. The Chinese flew police reinforcements into Lhasa and plainclothesmen are now said to be stationed at the Jokhang Temple and three monasteries near Lhasa, making it difficult for the monks to renew their demonstrations.

China forcibly annexed Tibet in 1950 and suppressed a major uprising in 1959, forcing the Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile. The Chinese have accused the Dalai Lama of instigating the anti-Chinese rioting that erupted last fall.

The Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the report of a demonstration on Dec. 19. The government has insisted that the situation is normal and has denied reports that police have arrested large numbers of Tibetans.

Foreign journalists were ordered to leave Tibet in October. Meanwhile, the number of foreigners in the Tibetan capital has dwindled as the authorities encourage some already there to leave and discourage others from visiting unless they are part of group tours.

Gerhard Weinberger, first secretary at the Austrian Embassy, said Haller denied any involvement in demonstrations. He said Chinese officials told the embassy that Haller was not technically under arrest or detention but was not free to leave his Lhasa hotel.

The Chinese told the embassy that Haller was not being allowed to leave his hotel because he was in Tibet without travel documents. Haller had mailed his passport to the embassy for renewal, and embassy sources said that it was sent back but had not arrived. Sources said Haller had permission for studies in Chengdu, not Lhasa.