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Tibetans protest Olympic torch in San Francisco

March 13, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, March 11 (AP) - Tibetan immigrants protesting Chinese
control of their homeland vowed to make San Francisco, the only U.S.
city to host the Olympic torch relay, the focal point of American
demonstrations against the Beijing Games.

Demonstrators on Monday unfurled a Tibetan flag over the flight of
white stone steps leading into San Francisco City Hall and held a
portrait of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader,
above the crowd next to banners saying "Olympics in China, Torture in
Tibet," and "Truth is our only weapon."

The protesters, some wiping away tears while singing the Tibet
national anthem, also called on Mayor Gavin Newsom to reject the April
9 torch run and urged city officials to pass a resolution calling on
China to improve conditions for Tibetans in their homeland.

"San Francisco has always stood for freedom and human rights," said
protester Yangchen Lhamo. "But Gavin Newsom has clearly sided with
China on this."

Newsom's spokesman had no immediate comment.

Monday was the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising that
forced the Dalai Lama into exile, and Tibetan exiles around the world
used the day to protest this summer's Games.

Exiles demonstrated in New Delhi, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal. In
Dharmsala, India, the home of the Tibetan government in exile,
hundreds of Tibetans started a planned six-month march to their
homeland but were stopped a day into it by police, who were acting on
an Indian government order banning the march.

In Olympia, Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, Tibetans
lit a Freedom Torch to start a relay intended to course through 50
cities and finish inside Tibet the same day Beijing will hold the
opening ceremonies, Aug. 8.

In San Francisco, Tibetan activists plan to line the parade route to
remind Americans of China's human rights abuses in their home country,
organizers said.

Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951, and Beijing continues
to rule the region with a heavy hand. China enforces strict controls
on religious institutions and routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama, who
won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans
say they were essentially an independent state for most of that time.

The International Olympic Committee has said the games are not a
political tool and has declined to comment on China's human rights
record.
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