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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Tibetans in Nepal continue daily protests

May 2, 2008

ROBERT KITTEL
United Press International, Asia
May 01, 2008


KATHMANDU, Nepal, Tibetans in Nepal are not hopeful that talks in
Beijing between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai
Lama will resolve any of the underlying issues that sparked unrest in
Tibet in March, drawing world attention to the Tibetan plight. But, they
say, they will not be useless either.

"These talks may work more in terms of helping the crisis in Tibet that
is happening right now, and in terms of releasing the people who have
been detained and imprisoned," said Yungdrung Gyaltsen, a 41-year-old
monk and a member of the Tibetan government-in-exile, who lives with
fellow Tibetans in a monastery in Kathmandu.

Momentum is growing for high-level figures to stay away from the opening
ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, led by French President
Nicolas Sarkozy, who said he would not attend unless Beijing engaged in
dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

"The reason China is seeking dialogue with His Holiness now is they
don't want people to boycott the Olympics," said Gyaltsen.

Originally Tibetans were very hopeful that the Beijing Olympics might be
a watershed for them. "The Olympics symbolizes peace and human rights
and equality, therefore, at the beginning there was a lot of hope that
there would be a review of their policy towards Tibet. But if you look
at how China is behaving right now, it seems as if that hope is not so
much anymore," Gyaltsen lamented.

The Dalai Lama and his supporters in India and elsewhere have called for
autonomy for Tibet, and the right of its people to freely practice their
religion and retain their culture. The Dalai Lama called China's
policies in Tibet "cultural genocide."

When Tibetans in Kathmandu began demonstrating in March in support of
the monks in Tibet, the Chinese government protested vociferously, and
the Nepalese police were brutal in putting down the peaceful protests.
"Initially, the Nepalese police took quite strong measures against us.
Protesters, including monks and nuns, were severely beaten. One young
boy of 24 years had both his ankles broken," said Gyaltsen, who has been
a monk for 21 years.

Near-daily protests over the last six weeks have met with daily arrests
by police. An exception was made on April 28, however, when a Tibetan
funeral march was allowed to proceed without police interference.
Tibetans were mourning those killed in the violent clashes in Tibet. At
the end of the march they handed over a letter of protest to the U.N.
mission here.

The international community and media have been an important ally in
helping to check police abuses. The United Nations and diplomatic
missions, as well as NGO groups such as Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch, complained to the Nepal government to put a check on
police brutality. This did help to tone down the ferocity of the police
response.

"However," Gyaltsen stressed, "when the media was not around, again the
police would use excessive force, kicking our people."

On Wednesday, Tibetan activists took a new approach, launching a "China
Get Well Soon Campaign," led by the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of
Kathmandu. Hundreds of young people delivered white roses and Get Well
cards to the Chinese Consulate, urging China to "recover" from violating
human rights. The cards also said, "We are pro-Tibet, not anti-China."

On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell urged the prime
minister to ensure that the right to peaceful protest was maintained and
the human rights of Tibetans in Nepal respected. She welcomed the
respect accorded to Tibetans during their April 28 protest.

Some observers have expressed concern that ethnic and religious rights
in Nepal may deteriorate under the new communist-dominated government,
especially if China seeks to increase its influence through political
pressure and economic incentives. The largest single party in Nepal's
new parliament will be the Communist Party Nepal-Maoists, lead by
Comrade Prachanda.

Although the party takes its name from Chinese leader Mao Zedong, China
did not support its 10-year insurgency. Prachanda has said the
government will maintain equidistant relations with India and China.

Tibetans see little change in their plight with respect to the change in
government, and don't expect a crackdown to follow. "We have been living
in Nepal for the past 50 years as refugees," the Tibetan spiritual
leader pointed out. "This is how the government of Nepal recognizes us
and we don't expect a lot will change."

There are about 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal, and they are
grateful for the hospitality from the government and people here. "We
would never expect the Nepalese government to say to us, 'You're not
welcome here,'" Gyaltsen said. "Our protests have always been in a
peaceful way, and they know us and know what we are saying is true."

In Kathmandu, Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people are on a 24-hour relay
fast to show solidarity with the people of Tibet. It is uncertain how
long the fasting and protests will continue. The India-based Tibetan
Solidarity Committee claims that 203 Tibetans have been killed in China,
over 1,000 injured and 5,715 detained.

Beijing's view is starkly different. The government says only 22 people
died as a result of the Tibetan unrest, most of them Han Chinese killed
by rioting Tibetans in Lhasa. The Communist Party mouthpiece, People's
Daily, carried an article this week entitled "The 'Tibet Issue' has
nothing to do with human rights." This and other articles in state media
have claimed that unrest in Tibet, and demonstrations around the world,
have been instigated by the "Dalai clique" in an attempt to win support
from the West for his aim of gaining independence for Tibet.

The Chinese government claims it has brought development to Tibet and
that its 1951 invasion liberated the people there from a feudal system
in which most people were enslaved by a small noble class. Most Han
Chinese citizens appear to accept this view.
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