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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan Protest Marchers Vow to Reach Homeland

March 13, 2008

New York Times
March 12, 2008

NEW DELHI — About a hundred Tibetan exiles on a six-month protest
march to their homeland defied the Indian government's orders to halt
Tuesday, and could be headed for a conflict with the local police.

The protesters, mostly monks and nuns, began their march on Monday,
the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet in
1959, and planned to walk 13 miles, or 21 kilometers, on Tuesday
despite a restraining order the Indian government issued Monday
evening, organizers of the march said.

The order, served by Indian police officers after marchers had
finished walking Monday, states that they are not to leave Kangra
District, which includes Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government in
exile in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, until further
notice. The marchers expect to reach the district's border within the
next two days.

"We are determined to continue our march," said Tsewang Rigzin, the
president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, in a telephone interview from
the march. Mr. Rigzin, 37, moved from Vancouver, Wash., to Dharamsala
five months ago to lead the congress, an activist group.

"Our issue is with the Chinese government, not the Indian government,"
he said. "We trust the Indian government will not intervene."

The march is one of several international protests related to Chinese
rule in Tibet that are under way before the Summer Olympics in Beijing
this August. Tibetan immigrants worldwide held protests on Monday, the
anniversary of the uprising, which led to the exile of the Dalai Lama,
the Tibetan Buddhist leader. Organizers of the march said they were
being joined for the first few days by a representative from Italy's
Parliament.

Chinese officials in Beijing said that about 60 monks in Tibet who
took part in the protests on Monday were arrested.

India is home to an estimated 130,000 refugees from Tibet, who are
promised protection from repatriation and issued papers to work. Their
Indian-born children receive Indian citizenship.

But the Indian government does not support outspoken activists
critical of China, and in some cases has limited their movements.

Several telephone calls to Indian government ministries for comment on
Monday's restraining order went not returned, or were referred to
other ministries that did not respond to calls or e-mail messages. One
government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because
he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said that India's
agreement with the Dalai Lama prohibits Tibetan exiles from taking
part in political protests. Additionally, he said, no one is allowed
to cross international borders without proper clearance.

And, he added, "India has other obligations as a country," including
its commitment to take part in the Beijing Olympics, which prevent it
from supporting the march.

The marchers, who say they do not have the backing of the Dalai Lama,
plan to walk from Dharamsala to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, over an
unnamed route.

The march is a way to alert the rest of the world to "what China is
trying to cover up under the pomp and show of the Olympics of 2008,"
said Tenzin Tsundue, a writer and an advocate of Tibetan independence
who has joined the walk. "We do not depend on the corrupt Chinese
government. We will decide our own destiny, our own future."

Before beginning their journey, the marchers took part in a three-day
seminar that included lectures on Gandhi's principles of nonviolent
protest, Mr. Rigzin said. "We're not shouting anything," he said,
"we're not disturbing anyone's peace."
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