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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetan refugees protest globally as Olympics near

March 12, 2008

DHARAMSALA, India Mar 10 (Reuters) - Tibetan refugees protested across
the world on Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of an uprising
against Chinese rule and press their demand for independence ahead of
the Beijing Olympics.

In Nepal, many people were hurt when police used batons to break up a
march on the Chinese embassy, while in neighbouring India 101 refugees
set off on a five-month march to Tibet accompanied by thousands of

In Greece, a dozen Tibetans lit a torch outside Olympia, site of the
ancient Olympic Games, to launch a global torch relay which they hope
will be taken to more than 20 countries and end at Tibet's border just
as the Beijing Olympics start on August 8.

As the Olympics approach, Tibetans are trying to reinvigorate their
freedom movement and protest against what they see as China's illegal
occupation of their homeland.

In India, several thousand people, Tibetans, Indians and Westerners,
accompanied the marchers as they set off from the town of Dharamsala,
home to Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the refugees'

"Everybody is pumped up," Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan
Youth Congress told Reuters. "Many people were in tears as they said
goodbye to the marchers.

"As refugees we have a right to return to our homeland," he said, but
Indian officials said the marchers would not be allowed to cross the

The marchers, red-robed Buddhist monks and nuns and young people born
in exile, carried Tibetan flags and pictures of the Dalai Lama and
Indian independence leader and advocate of non-violent civil
disobedience Mahatma Gandhi.

The protests marked the anniversary of a 1959 uprising in Tibet
against Chinese rule, which was crushed by the People's Liberation
Army, driving the Dalai Lama into exile.

"With the Olympics in China, and the Chinese government using this
platform to legitimise its illegal occupation of Tibet, we are
demonstrating that Tibet belongs to Tibetans and we will never give up
until Tibet is independent," Rigzin said.


The Dalai Lama used the occasion to complain that Tibet's language,
customs and traditions were "gradually fading away" as they become "an
insignificant minority" in their homeland.

Tibetans "have had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation
and suspicion under Chinese repression", he said in a statement issued
from Dharamsala.

"Repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and
gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the
politicisation of religious issues."

In Nepal, around 1,000 Tibetans shouting "free Tibet" tried to march
towards the high-security Chinese embassy in Kathmandu but were
stopped by police.

A protest organiser, who gave his name as Gyatho, said many were hurt
and around 150 detained. Police said five of their men were hurt by
stones thrown by the protesters.

Nepal's Home Ministry spokesman Modraj Dotel said police were ordered
not to allow any "anti-China" demonstrations to go ahead.

In Greece, protesters were barred from entering the ancient site
Olympia, which has hosted the Games' torch-lighting ceremony since
1936. Instead, they lit the torch outside the gates but complained of
harassment by police.

"This is proof of the Chinese state's wide influence," Tendon
Dahortsang of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe said.

"Greek authorities told us we were not allowed to go in because of our
big bags, as Chinese embassy officials stood nearby and watched us."

Tibetan shot-putter Tsultrim Gope was the first relay runner who took
the lit torch after five women representing goddesses performed a
traditional Tibetan ceremony.

The Dalai Lama last week rejected a Chinese accusation that he was
trying to sabotage the Olympics, saying he always supported Beijing's
right to host the Games.

The organisers of the protests said they had not sought approval from
the Dalai Lama, who takes a more moderate line than many of them and
says he wants autonomy for Tibet, not outright independence.
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