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Tibetan exiles marching to protest Olympics despite Indian police order to stop them

March 12, 2008

DHARMSALA, India, March 10 (AP) - Hundreds of Tibetan exiles in
northern India defied police orders Tuesday and resumed a march to
Tibet to protest Beijing hosting this summer's Olympic Games.

The exiles' planned six-month march from India to Tibet began Monday
to coincide with the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese
rule in Tibet that forced the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.

The marchers had stopped for the night near the northern Indian city
of Dharmsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Local
police chief Atul Fulzele said Monday night the marchers were banned
from leaving the area following a recommendation from the Indian
government.

Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said Tuesday morning the
protesters would ignore the police order and keep marching.

«This is the fun part now,» Tsundue said. «We are ready for any kind
of obstruction. We will be very peaceful but when so many people are
determined to give their lives up, no police can stop us.

India, which had been sympathetic to the cause of the Tibetan exiles
in the past, has clamped down on public protests in recent years,
fearing they could embarrass Beijing and damage burgeoning relations
between the two Asian giants.

Fulzele said the march went against an agreement between New Delhi and
the Tibetan government-in-exile.

On Monday, protesters rallied in the Indian capital, New Delhi and in
Katmandu, Nepal, where hundreds of activists clashed with police.
Pro-Tibet demonstrations also took place in San Francisco, the United
States and Olympia, Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games.

In Lhasa, Tibet, as many as 300 monks marched in the city center to
mark the anniversary of the uprising, and Chinese authorities detained
50 to 60 monks, reported Radio Free Asia, a private broadcaster funded
by the U.S. Congress.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader,
speaking at a separate event in India, accused China of «unimaginable
and gross violations of human rights» in the Himalayan region.

However, none of the groups taking part in the protest walk were
affiliated with the government and neither the Dalai Lama nor Tibet's
government in exile have issued any official statement on the march.

The exile groups said the march was to be one of several protests
around the world before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games.

The groups say Beijing's preparations for the Games come at a time
when China is attempting to stamp out Tibetan Buddhist culture and
increase the government's presence in Tibet.

Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically part of China, but many
Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for
centuries.

Associated Press Writer Binaj Gurubacharya contributed to this report
from Katmandu, Nepal.
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