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In New Delhi, Tibet's parliament in exile protest Chinese crackdown

March 20, 2008

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DHARMSALA, India: The Dalai Lama asked Tibetan activists to end their
confrontational march to Tibet on Wednesday while exiles pressed ahead
with peaceful protests in northern India and New Delhi.

The Tibetan spiritual and political leader met with members of the five
groups organizing the march to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, a day after
he expressed fears about the marchers clashing with Chinese troops at
the border.

"His Holiness appealed to the (groups) to end their protest march to
Tibet," said Tenzin Taklha, a senior aide to the Dalai Lama. "He made it
clear he cannot order them, but he appealed to them to stop."

Organizers declined to comment on the meeting but said they would talk
further about how to proceed and announce a decision soon.

The protest march began days after more than 100 Tibetan exiles were
arrested attempting to march to Lhasa from Dharmsala, the seat of the
Tibetan government-in-exile.

Meanwhile, Tibet's parliament-in-exile staged a protest in the Indian
capital Wednesday, calling for an independent investigation into the
recent violence in Tibet and an end to China's crackdown in the region.

The 43 members of parliament, who together represent a wing of the
government-in-exile, came to central New Delhi to show solidarity with
Tibetan protesters in Lhasa and to call attention to China's
"state-sponsored violence," said parliamentarian Youdon Aukatsang.

"It's a crisis in Tibet and I think the world community should stand up
and condemn the Chinese government very strongly," Aukatsang said.

Tibet's government-in-exile says at least 80 people have died in the
violence following protests that began March 10 on the anniversary of a
failed 1959 uprising. Chinese officials say 16 people were killed.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the violence, a charge
he and his followers vigorously dispute.

"He is a leader who has always promoted nonviolence and now they are
blaming him," said Aukatsang. "He had no role whatsoever in that. This
is state-sponsored violence."

Tibetan mobs have been behind at least some of the violence, including
attacks against ethnic Han Chinese, China's majority ethnic group.
Beijing authorities have encouraged large numbers of Han Chinese to
settle in Tibet, sparking deep resentment in the region.

The official Xinhua News Agency said mobs smashed and torched shops,
homes, banks, government schools and offices, along with dozens of
vehicles, setting fires in more than 300 locations altogether. Xinhua
said losses to businesses were estimated at more than $14 million.

Foreign media are banned from Tibet, and China's state-controlled media
have reported only the official version of events.

In New Delhi, the speaker of Tibet's parliament-in-exile expressed his
support for the demonstrations, which represent the largest challenge to
China's rule in Tibet in nearly two decades.

"They are now showing their true feelings, that they are not happy under
Chinese rule," said Karma Choephel. "At the risk of losing their lives,
they're are now showing their resentment."

Choephel said the members of parliament were fasting Wednesday and would
spend the rest of the week meeting with officials in New Delhi rallying
support for the cause.

The parliament-in-exile acts as advocates for the Tibetan community and
meets as a group at least twice a year.
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