Thousands of Tibetans march in Indian capital
By Muneeza Naqvi, NEW DELHI, AP Thursday, August 9, 2007, 12:00 am TWN
Thousands of Tibetan exiles marched in the Indian capital on Wednesday to protest the 2008 Olympic in Beijing and demand an end to China's rule over Tibet.
Wearing headbands and T-shirts with the slogan "Free Tibet," the Tibetans' march culminated in a rally close to India's Parliament House.
"Our protest movement will carry on (until) Aug. 8, 2008," said Pema Yangchen, one of the marchers. The opening ceremony of the Beijing Games is scheduled for that day.
The marchers said China had no right to hold the Olympic Games in view of its poor human rights record.
Indian police last week denied them permission to hold a marathon in New Delhi. The Tibetan exiles accused the Indian government of caving in to pressure from the Chinese government.
On Wednesday, they were allowed to hold the protest, flanked by scores of armed paramilitary soldiers.
"We will give our lives but not our land," they chanted.
The Tibetan Youth Congress, which organized the march, said nearly 20,000 people took part, making it the largest single gathering of Tibetan exiles in several decades.
"This is a new beginning for the Tibetan struggle against Chinese occupation," said Kalasang Phuntsok Godrukpa, president of the India based congress.
China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.
India has been generally supportive of the Tibetan exiles after their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled there in 1959 after a failed uprising, settling in the northern town of Dharmsala. It, however, consider Tibet as part of China.
Several Tibetan groups have come together to organize protests in New Delhi before the Olympics.
Fourteen Tibetan exiles have been on hunger strike for the past month in New Delhi, demanding that the Chinese leave Tibet. The hunger strikers, who have been drinking only water, are also members of the Tibetan Youth Congress.
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