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Pro-Tibet campaigners to be in Beijing

August 3, 2008

AFP
August 1, 2008

Pro-Tibet campaigners say they will be in Beijing and will attempt to
stage peaceful protests during the Olympics despite stringent
restrictions ahead of the Games.

"There are people of conscience who are travelling to Beijing, and
who are ready to speak out peacefully," said Lhadon Tethong,
executive director of New York-based Students for a Free Tibet.

"It just depends on the security situation as to where and when the
protests will take place."

Authorities in Beijing have imposed strict security measures ahead of
the Olympics, which begin next Friday, largely due to what they say
is a major terrorist threat to the Games.

But critics say the measures are an excuse to crack down on any
potential protests against China, including on the Tibetan issue,
which could cause huge embarrassment to the Chinese leadership.

The rights group, which campaigns for freedom and independence for
Tibetans, said some Olympic athletes have expressed an interest in
making a pro-Tibet statement during the Games.

"We never thought that there would be such an interest. I think it
proves that there are many people of conscience who are also
incredibly talented athletes," Tethong said.

She said the group has been urging athletes to make statements of
support for Tibetans, including podium protests for those who win medals.

"But I can't say anything about what people may or may not do at this
moment," she said.

Tibet, a region situated in the Himalayan mountains and known as the
"rooftop of the world," has been under Chinese rule since 1951.

Tibetans complain of ongoing political and religious repression by
Chinese authorities, while China maintains it has helped the region to develop.

The issue came to a head in March when peaceful protests erupted into
riots in the regional capital Lhasa, prompting a brutal crackdown by
Chinese authorities that has been widely condemned around the world.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say 203 people died in the Chinese clampdown
on the unrest, which spread to neighbouring Tibetan-inhabited
provinces of western and southwest China.

China has reported killing one Tibetan "insurgent," while accusing
"rioters" of killing 21 people.
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