Tibetans shun path of peace in their fight to free country

August 9, 2007

Thousands of Tibetans rallied in the Indian capital yesterday in the first protest of an aggressive new campaign to highlight Chinese abuses in Tibet in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

At least 10,000 Tibetan monks and other exiles, mostly from India and Nepal, joined the protest in the city centre, which coincided with a ceremony in Beijing to mark the one-year countdown to the Games.

“We will give our lives but not our land!” they chanted as they marched to Parliament House in Delhi, flanked by scores of paramilitary police. They also declared their support for 14 Tibetans on the 32nd day of a hunger strike.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, the radical group behind the hunger strike and yesterday’s protest, said that it was time to change tactics after almost 50 years of adhering to the Dalai Lama’s nonviolent creed.

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“This is a new beginning for the Tibetan struggle against Chinese occupation,” said Kalsang Phuntsok Godrukpa, president of the congress.

“The essence of the Olympics is equality, but we do not have equality in Tibet. China doesn’t deserve the Olympics until Tibet is free.” China, which claims that Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, sent troops into the region in 1950 to reassert its sovereignty after the Communist takeover in Beijing a year earlier.

The Dalai Lama, who claimed that Tibet was an independent nation, fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against the Chinese and has lived ever since in the north Indian town of Dharamsala.

In recent years, he has ceased advocating independence for Tibet and started calling for genuine autonomy within China to try to encourage negotiations with Beijing.

However, many of the estimated 200,000 Tibetans living in exile — mostly in India — continue to campaign for independence and feel increasingly frustrated with the lack of international support for their cause.

Young exiles, especially, are turning towards the Tibetan Youth Congress, which recognises the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader but disagrees with many of his policies and has advocated violent protest.

The congress was founded by Jamyang Norbu, a member of a short-lived Tibetan guerrilla movement that carried out raids on Chinese forces from neighbouring Nepal in the 1970s. Last month, he called for direct action against Western companies investing in China, including Yahoo!, and many young Tibetans appear to agree.

“What have we achieved in the last 50 years? If we don’t act soon, there’ll be nothing to fight for,” said Tseten Wangchuk, a 22-year-old Tibetan student who joined yesterday’s protest, draped in a Tibetan flag.

Nearby, the 14 hunger strikers lay on cots under a tarpaulin.

The Dalai Lama wrote to them yesterday, saying that their action was “highly commendable” but also “a form of violence” that could lead to the unnecessary loss of Tibetan lives.

“The immense hardships you have all endured so far have fulfilled a key objective: it has attracted much publicity and caught the attention of the international community as well as inspired Tibetans living inside and outside Tibet,” he said.

“In light of this, I earnestly appeal to you all to discontinue your hunger strike immediately.”

Indian police broke up the Tibetans’ last hunger strike in 1998, prompting one Tibetan man to set himself on fire. He died later in hospital.

Tashi Wangu, a 54-year-old farmer among the current hunger strikers, said that the 14 would continue their fast despite the Dalai Lama’s request. “The pain is nothing, and our demands are so simple,” he said.

“We just want a response from China guaranteeing Tibetans’ human rights.”

Taken from: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2224603.ece

Posted by: Jigme32


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