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India footballer in Tibet protest

April 2, 2008

BBC News
April 1, 2008

India's football captain Baichung Bhutia has refused to carry the
Olympic torch during its journey through the Indian capital Delhi later
this month.

He told the authorities the move was in protest against China's
crackdown on Tibetan demonstrators, officials said.

India has not allowed large-scale Tibetan protests against China, which
is hosting the Olympics this year.

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has lived in India since
fleeing his homeland in 1959.

India is also home to more than 150,000 Tibetan exiles.

Tibet's government-in-exile, based in India, says up to 140 people were
killed in a crackdown by Chinese security forces since anti-China riots
began two weeks ago.

Beijing disputes this, saying rioters killed 18 civilians and two police
officers during the protests.

Sympathy

"I sympathise with the Tibetan cause. This is my way of standing by the
people of Tibet and their struggle. I abhor violence in any form,"
Bhutia told the Times of India newspaper.

Bhutia is a Buddhist who comes from the north-eastern Indian state of
Sikkim which has long been claimed by China as its own territory.

The footballer told the newspaper he had not been requested by any group
to pull out of the torch run.

"This is an absolutely personal decision. I feel what is happening in
Tibet is not right and in my small way I should show my solidarity," he
said.

The Indian Olympic Association, which is organising the flame's journey
through Delhi on 17 April, has invited several top athletes to participate.

India-China relations

On Sunday, China's State Councillor Dai Bingguo called upon Indian
National Security Adviser MK Narayanan to "understand and support"
China's policy towards Tibet.

Beijing said Mr Narayanan had reiterated that the government in Delhi
viewed Tibet as part of China.

India has in the past been sympathetic to the Tibetan cause but in
recent years Delhi's relations with Beijing have improved.

India has not allowed large-scale public protests over the recent unrest
in Tibet.

Earlier this month, more than 100 Tibetan refugees were detained in
India while attempting to march to the Chinese border.
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