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Tibetan cause arouses sympathy in Japan

March 19, 2009

By Hiroshi Yamazaki, UPI Correspondent
UPI Asia
March 17, 2009

Tokyo, Japan -- Tibetan exiles living in Japan
are becoming more vocal in their calls for action
against China's alleged human rights violations
in their homeland, thanks to widening support in their host country.

Khedroob Thondup, the 56-year-old nephew of the
Dalai Lama and a member of the Tibetan
government-in exile’s Parliament, addressed a
rally of about 200 supporters Monday in Tokyo,
calling for more assistance from Japan in
pressuring China to improve the situation in Tibet.

Thondup, who was involved in an
on-again-off-again dialogue with Beijing that
continued for 15 years until 1994, expressed
disappointment at what he described as China's
stubborn and militaristic attitude. The dialogue
was resumed in 2002, but eight rounds of talks
since then have produced no results.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a press
conference on Friday, following the National
People’s Congress in Beijing, that China was
willing to hold further talks with the Dalai Lama
as long as he agreed to renounce separatism. He
also blamed the Dalai Lama for the failure of
past negotiations and said he had lied to the
international community about his intentions, in
comments that angered Tibetans in and out of Tibet.

The Tibetan government in exile responded that it
welcomed talks, but would still seek autonomy for
Tibet. Neither side holds any real expectation of meaningful talks, however.

The Dalai Lama, voicing his frustration with
China’s recent heavy-handed security measures in
Tibet, last week described conditions there as "hell on Earth."

"We have come to agree to disagree on all the
issues," said Thondup. Chinese leaders only
agreed to talks in order to gain face under international pressure, he claimed.

While the Dalai Lama has said he pursues only
"meaningful autonomy" for Tibet, Thondup is known
to favor total independence from China. He said
that until 50 years ago, "Tibet was a fully
independent nation," with a functioning government.

To prove his point, participants at Monday's
rally were shown a black-and-white film produced
in 1942-43 by a visiting American group. It
depicted Tibetan royals and government officials
meeting foreign guests in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Reflecting their 50 years of exile in India and
elsewhere, Thondup described Tibetans as "the
most successful refugees, thanks to the pragmatic
leader in the person of the Dalai Lama." The
Tibetan cause had a great many sympathizers
around the world, he said, with pro-Tibet organizations in about 60 countries.

Beijing has indicated that it will appoint the
next Dalai Lama when the current 14th Dalai Lama
passes away. Thondup blasted the idea, saying
such a scheme would surely fail. "Beijing does
not understand what the Dalai Lama really
represents," he said, pointing out that the
communist leadership views all religion as "poison."

Monday's rally was organized by the 100-member
Committee for Freedom and Human Rights in Tibet.
The Tokyo-based committee claims to have 253
advisers, including a former prime minister,
members of Parliament and other prominent individuals.

Japanese citizens have shown growing sympathy and
activism for the Tibetan cause, especially after
China’s crackdown following civil disturbances in
Lhasa and other Tibetan areas last year, pointed
out Lhakkpa Tshoko, the Dalai Lama’s
representative in Japan and East Asia. He was
speaking at an earlier rally commemorating the
50th anniversary of the failed March 10th
uprising in Tibet, after which the Dalai Lama and
many other Tibetans fled to India, in 1959.

Many Japanese were also shocked by the behavior
of the Chinese during last year’s Beijing
Olympics torch relay in Japan. TV images showed
hundreds of Chinese students and youth waving
large Chinese flags, violently threatening
Tibetan protestors and horrifying onlookers in Nagano city.

This year a number of street demonstrations were
held to mark the March 10th anniversary,
including a protest in front of the Chinese
Embassy in Tokyo. Hundreds of Japanese and
Tibetans participated, some dressed in colorful
Tibetan costumes and many waving Tibetan flags.

At the same time, films portraying Tibetan
struggles are being shown in major cities. At one
of the rallies, "Undercover in Tibet," a video
broadcast by Britain's Channel Four, was shown in
Japan for the first time. The video, taken by a
mountain climber and cameraman, captured scenes
of alleged Chinese guards shooting at Tibetan
families attempting to flee over a Himalayan pass.

"Undeclared marshal law has been imposed in
Tibet," said Tshoko. He said that about 20,000
Chinese soldiers had been mobilized in and around
Lhasa to prevent any protests during the
anniversaries of the 1959 uprising and last year’s riots.

According to Tshoko, China's key objective is to
exploit Tibet's natural resources including
water, oil and minerals. While the Chinese
extract the riches of the land, many nomads are
forcibly relocated and left in dire poverty, he said.

Tshoko complained that Japanese media tend to
portray the situation in Tibet according to
China’s view. China designates the Tibetan people
as one of its 55 ethnic minority groups, when in
fact they are an entirely different people with a
unique religion and culture, he explained.

Because of Japan's clout in Asia, Japan's views
on Tibet are greatly influencing other Asian countries, he said.
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