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Fleeing students bring tales of Tibet repression

November 24, 2008

By Bappa Majumdar
Reuters
November 22, 2008

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - Tibetans are regularly beaten up, their
homes raided at night and hundreds have gone missing as a brutal
Chinese crackdown continues inside Tibet, a group of Tibetan students
who escaped into India this week said.

Most Tibetan towns are "swarming" with soldiers who have been
arresting people even for mentioning the name of their spiritual
leader the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and now lives in the
northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

"Soldiers picked up my uncle from his house, dragged him by his hair
and kicked him in the face and stomach," Tsomo, a 30-year-old woman
using only one name, told Reuters on Saturday.

"Later we learnt that he died in a lock-up."

Tsomo was among 20 Tibetans who escaped from Tibet after trekking
across freezing Himalayan mountains for weeks, dodging soldiers and
checkpoints to reach Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan
government-in-exile.

India hosts about 150,000 Tibetan exiles, most of whom have arrived
after similar journeys over the past few decades.

The students' group plans to meet the Dalai Lama to tell him about
the torture and what they said was the illegal detention of hundreds
of Tibetans for protesting against China.

Tibetans are meeting this week in Dharamsala to chart a future course
for their movement after eight rounds of official talks on autonomy
with Beijing failed to make any headway.

The escaping students say "Chinese atrocities" have increased since
the March 14 Tibetan uprising in Lhasa, which China blamed on the
Dalai Lama and his "clique." The riots later spilled over into the
rest of Tibet and neighboring Chinese provinces with Tibetan
populations, drawing global attention.

Since then, hundreds of Tibetans have been interrogated and detained
while many have disappeared without a trace, says Kate Swanders of
the International Campaign for Tibet, a global advocacy group for the
Tibetan cause.

"We presume many could be dead. Some of whom we come to know about
are subjected to hard labor and brutal torture," Swanders told Reuters.

She said Chinese authorities had "dramatically stepped up" security
and about 900 Tibetans had been jailed since the March riots.

China denies torturing or detaining Tibetans without reason, but says
strong action will be taken against those trying to protest against
Chinese rule or escape from Tibet.

"These days we speak in hushed tones about Dharamsala and his
holiness in Tibet. The authorities do not allow us to even carry a
photograph of our leader," Gyaltsen, 17, another escapee, said.

"We were not happy in Tibet. Life there is miserable as we have to
constantly live in fear of being arrested," Tsomo said.

Parents encourage children to escape as they do not want them to be
indoctrinated in Chinese schools vilifying the Dalai Lama, said
Tenzin Losel, an ICT coordinator in India.

"We escaped because we wanted to be with our saviour, the Dalai Lama.
Only he can save us and free Tibet," said Tenzin Ngodrup, another
escapee dressed in a "Chupa" or Tibetan gown.

(Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Bill Tarrant)
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