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Tibetans shun New Year celebrations for 2nd year

February 15, 2010

By ASHWINI BHATIA (AP)
The Associated Press
February 14, 2010

DHARMSALA, India -- Tibetans have decided against
celebrating the Lunar New Year for a second year
in remembrance of the suffering of people inside
Tibet, the Dalai Lama said Sunday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader asked his followers
not to lose hope, saying people in Tibet have
shown great courage and sincerity in facing
China's crackdown after uprisings in March 2008.

Tibetans in exile also called off New Year
celebrations last year. The Lunar New Year
holiday that began Saturday is the most important of the year in China.

"Tibetans are only observing religious ceremonies
and not celebrating the New Year," the Dalai Lama
told more than a thousand Tibetans in exile who
dressed in traditional finery and greeted him at the Tsuglakhang temple.

The Dalai Lama led a prayer session, attended by
senior Buddhist monks and Tibetan
parliamentarians. Tibetans beat drums and cymbals
during the two-hour ceremony on the terrace of the temple.

A group of young Tibetans, led by Tenzin Tsundue,
a writer and political activist, waved Tibetan
flags outside the temple and shouted "Free Tibet."

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to meet President
Barack Obama in Washington next Thursday. China
has urged Washington to cancel the meeting and
says it could damage U.S.-China relations.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing to free
Tibet from Chinese rule, which he denies.

He has been living in the northern Indian town of
Dharmsala since he fled Tibet 50 years ago when Chinese troops marched in.

China maintains that Tibet has been part of its
territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say
the region was functionally independent for much of its history.
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