JavaScript DHTML Menu Powered by Milonic
         
Home History Take Action Activist Toolbox Day of Action Reports
 
STATEMENTS

His Holiness's March 10th Statement

Tibetan Women's Association Statement

Statement of the Tibetan Youth Congress

A message to TIbetans inside Tibet from Students for a Free Tibet

NEWS ARTICLES

Tibetan exiles to leave on 6-month protest march from India into Tibet AP

Parade marks Tibetan uprising Taipei Times

Tibet's language, customs fading away: Dalai Lama - Reuters

Tibetans start torch relay to oppose Beijing Games -Reuters

Monks Staged Bold Protests in Tibet -AP

Hundreds of monks protest in Tibet -The Guardian

Tibetans Protest Olympic Torch in SF -AP

India Bars Tibetan Protest March -AP

Tibetans Keeping Marching, Defing Ban -AP

Tibetans Protest SF Hosting Olympic Torch -AP

Monks in Tibet go on hunger strike as protests spread -The Guardian

For Video News Coverage Click Here

 

NEWS ARTICLES

Tibetan exiles to leave on 6-month protest march from India into Tibet -AP

March 10, 2008

DHARMSALA, India, Mar 10, (AP) - Hundreds of Tibetan exiles prepared
to leave Monday for a six-month march from India to Tibet to protest
Beijing's hold on the Himalayan region and China's hosting
of the Olympic games.

Tibetan exile groups said the march will be one of several protests
around the world during the buildup to the to 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.

This is a people's march,» Lobsang Yeshi, one of the coordinators,
said Sunday of the planned six-month trek. «It could potentially be
our biggest protest since we came into exile in 1959. We are
determined

to go home and nobody could stop us from doing that.

Hundreds of members of several exile groups plan to depart from
Dharmsala in northern India on Monday _ the day Tibetans commemorate a
failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Dharmsala has been a center for Tibetan exiles since the Dalai Lama,
the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, fled there after the failed
uprising and set up a government in exile.

We are determined to go home and it's our right to do so,» said
Lhadon Tethong, president of the Students for a Free Tibet,
International Chapter. «There is no better way for Tibetans to
demonstrate that

we belong to Tibet.

Organizers said they had not yet determined the route for the march.

 

Parade marks Tibetan uprising Taipei Times

The Taipei Times
Mar 10, 2008

"Free Tibet!" "Boycott the Beijing Olympics!": nearly 200 people --
Tibetans and Taiwanese alike -- shouted as they marched through
streets in Taipei City to commemorate the 1959 Tibetan uprising
against

Chinese invasion.

"More than 100,000 [Tibetans] were killed during the 1959 uprising
against Chinese rule," Chou Mei-li, president of Taiwan Friends of
Tibet (TFOT), said as she explained the importance of the event before

the demonstrators departed from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall yesterday afternoon.

"Each year on this date, Tibetans worldwide and their supporters walk
out of their homes to commemorate the day," she said. "We, the
Taiwanese, certainly won't be absent from it."

The parade, organized by TFOT, the Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation
and the Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association, began right after a simple
memorial ceremony in which Tibetans in Taiwan sang the

Tibetan national anthem and Tibetan monks chanted Buddhist chants.

The marchers held up placards that read "stop Chinese colonization in
Tibet" and "free Tibet," as well as photos of some Tibetan political
prisoners.

"The youngest political prisoner in the world -- the Panchen Lama,"
the inscription above a picture of a child on a placard said.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, born in 1989, was named the 11th Panchen Lama --
the second-highest ranking monk in the Tibetan religion -- by the
Dalai Lama in 1995.

However, as soon as he was named the Panchen Lama, he disappeared and
the Chinese government appointed its own Panchen Lama.

The whereabouts of Gedhun are unknown to this day.

Another placard bore a picture of Rungyal Adrak, who openly advocated
the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet and demanded Gedhun's release last
August. As a result, he was arrested and sentenced to eight

years in prison.

The procession ran into a Fuwa, the mascot of the Beijing Olympics,
when they were approaching Taipei 101 Tower.

At the entrance of an exhibition hall to promote the exhibition, the
exhibition organizer had someone dressed up as a Fuwa to promote the
event.

As soon as the demonstrators spotted the Olympic mascot, some started
to yell "Fuwa, get out" and "boycott the Beijing Olympics."

No further exchange continued as the exhibition staff quickly pulled
the Fuwa inside.

Not all participants support boycotting the Olympics.

Erinn Low, a Canadian who is studying Mandarin in Taiwan, said that
athletes' rights to fulfill their life-long dreams to take part in the
Olympics should not be taken away, but added she supported the

demonstration because it would raise public awareness on the Tibetan issue.

Having participated in the event in India several times, it was the
first time that Dhundup Gyalpo, a Tibetan student at Tamkang
University, took part in the rally in Taiwan.

He was surprised at the turnout for the parade.

"Even though there are only few Tibetans here, the support is huge,"
Gyalpo said. "This just shows that the Tibetan issue is well alive."
This story has been viewed 417 times.

The groups also called on all Tibetans to peacefully protest the
Olympics and China's plans to have the ceremonial torch paraded
through Tibet.

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

Tibet's government-in-exile has not issued any official statement on the march.

 

Tibet's language, customs fading away: Dalai Lama - Reuters
By Benjamin Kang Lim

March 09, 2008

BEIJING, March 09: Tibet's language, customs and traditions are fading away and Tibetans live in fear as they become an insignificant minority in their Himalayan homeland, the Dalai Lama will say in a speech on Monday.

Monday marks the 49th anniversary of an uprising crushed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, driving the Dalai Lama, now 72, into exile in India.

"The language, customs and traditions of Tibet ... are gradually fading away," the Dalai Lama will say in the speech from Dharamsala, the north Indian hill station where he lives.

Tibetans "have had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation and suspicion under Chinese repression", he will say.

"Repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the politicization of religious issues."

As a result of China's policy of population transfer, the non-Tibetan population has increased many times, reducing Tibetans to an "insignificant minority in their own country ... I urge the Chinese government to bring an immediate halt to such policies," the Dalai Lama will say.

The atheist Communist Party has competed against the Dalai Lama for the loyalty of his people but the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner remains the single most important figure in Tibetan life.

China has defended itself saying it ended centuries of serfdom and has poured billions of dollars to develop Tibet and raise the living standards of the impoverished, predominantly Buddhist region.

Turning to the Olympics, the Dalai Lama will say he has supported Beijing hosting the Games from the very beginning, dismissing an accusation by China's top official in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, that he was trying to "sabotage and cause trouble."

The Dalai Lama will urge the international community to urge China to prove itself a good host by respecting freedom of expression during the Games.

"The world should ... explore ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China after the Olympics have come to an end," he will say.

The Dalai Lama will have no harsh words for Chinese President Hu Jintao, who said last week stability in occasionally restive Tibet had a bearing on the stability of China as a whole.

The Dalai Lama will welcome China's emergence as a powerful country thanks to its economic progress, but he will prod China to improve observance of the rule of law, transparency, the right to information and freedom of speech.

Despite "no concrete result" in talks between China and the Dalai Lama's envoys, the Dalai Lama will say his "determination to pursue the middle-way policy and to continue our dialogue with the Chinese government remain unchanged."

 

Tibetans start torch relay to oppose Beijing Games -Reuters

March 10th, 2008

OLYMPIA, Greece - Tibetan activists staged a torch-lighting ceremony outside Olympia on Monday for the start of a global torch relay to protest against decades of Chinese rule over the Himalayan region.
Olympia, site of the ancient Olympic Games, will host the official torch-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics on March 24.

"We lit this torch which is of so much importance for us, for a free Tibet," Tendon Dahortsang of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe told Reuters.
The torch was lit outside the gates to the ancient site after the group of about 10 was barred from entering by police.
Tibetan shot-putter Tsultrim Gope was the first relay runner who took the lit torch after five women representing goddesses performed a traditional Tibetan ceremony.
"This is proof of the Chinese state's wide influence," Tendon Dahortsang said. "Greek authorities told us we were not allowed to go in because of our big bags, as Chinese embassy officials stood nearby and watched us."
The so-called Tibetan freedom torch will stop over at 50 cities and end at the border of Tibet on the day of the start of the Beijing Olympics, on Aug. 8.
Olympia has hosted the Games' torch-lighting ceremony and relay since the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
"The police had a massive presence and they even escorted us back to our hotels but the people of Olympia clapped and cheered us on along the main street," Tibet Olympic Committee spokesman Kelsang Gope said.
China has controlled Tibet since People's Liberation Army troops marched in in 1950 and considers it an integral part of its territory.
Critics accuse China of repressing Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
China says it has spent billions of dollars developing the impoverished Himalayan region, and raised its living standards.
And it has repeatedly said that it wants to keep politics out of the August Games.
The International Olympic Committee has been under mounting pressure as criticism over China's human rights record grows less than six months before the Games.
The IOC has rejected a Tibetan request to field a team for next year's Beijing Olympics. The Tibetan team currently comprises some 30 athletes, all exiled.

 

Monks Staged Bold Protests in Tibet -AP

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN

BEIJING — Buddhist monks staged two protests in the capital of Tibet this week in a bold, public challenge to China's rule, though a senior official said Tuesday that no one was arrested.
Champa Phuntsok, an ethnic Tibetan who heads the Tibetan regional government, said authorities briefly detained monks from Drepung monastery outside Lhasa who tried to march to the city on the anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule in 1959.

He said they were released shortly afterward after being questioned and "counseled."
"It's really nothing," he told The Associated Press in Beijing, where he was attending the annual legislative session. "Everything is really great."
The protest, which overseas rights groups said involved about 300 monks, is believed to be the largest demonstration in the city since Beijing crushed a wave of pro-independence activity in 1989.
Phunstok also confirmed a smaller protest at which nine monks shouted slogans near a temple in central Lhasa. The U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia and an overseas Tibetan Web site, phayul.com, had earlier reported both demonstrations.

Asked about the march, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, "Some ignorant monks in Lhasa abetted by a small handful of people did some illegal things that can challenge the social stability."
He said monks were dealt with "according to the law," but gave no details.
Drepung was sealed off Tuesday and increased numbers of armed police guarded temples in and around Lhasa, according to Radio Free Asia and phayul.com Web site, which is run by Tibetan exiles.
Up to 71 people, mostly monks, were detained following the protests, they said.
Always edgy about protests in frequently restive Tibet, China is particularly nervous in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August. Tibetan exiles and their supporters have tried to draw the Olympic spotlight to China's often harsh 57-year rule over the Himalayan region.

China is also worried about threats from another troubled borderland, the far western Xinjiang region, where Muslim ethnic groups have waged a simmering campaign for independence.
Officials on Sunday said a January police raid in Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi uncovered a terrorist plot targeting the Olympics, but they provided no details or supporting evidence. Authorities were also investigating a reported attempt to crash a flight that departed Urumqi on Friday, but have released little information and have not characterized the incident as an attempted terrorist act.
Meanwhile, several hundred Tibetan exiles defied police orders to resume an attempt to march to Tibet from Dharmsala, India, where their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has presided over a government-in-exile since the abortive 1959 uprising.

The march aims to protest the Beijing Olympics, although Indian police have banned it, saying it violates an agreement between New Delhi and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The march has not been publicly endorsed by the exile government or the Dalai Lama, who at a separate event in India, accused China of "unimaginable and gross violations of human rights" in the Himalayan region.
Since the 1989 demonstrations, China has pumped investment into the region, vilified the Dalai Lama and tried to weed out his supporters among the influential Buddhist clergy — moves that have alienated some Tibetans.

 

Tibetans Protest Olympic Torch in SF -AP

By JULIANA BARBASSA

SAN FRANCISCO — Tibetan immigrants protesting Chinese control of their homeland vowed Monday to make San Francisco, the only U.S. city to host the Olympic torch relay, the focal point of American demonstrations against the Beijing Games.
Demonstrators unfurled a Tibetan flag over the flight of white stone steps leading into San Francisco City Hall and held a portrait of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, above the crowd next to banners saying "Olympics in China, Torture in Tibet," and "Truth is our only weapon."
The protesters, some wiping away tears while singing the Tibet national anthem, also called on Mayor Gavin Newsom to reject the April 9 torch run and urged city officials to pass a resolution calling on China to improve conditions for Tibetans in their homeland.
"San Francisco has always stood for freedom and human rights," said protester Yangchen Lhamo. "But Gavin Newsom has clearly sided with China on this."
Newsom's spokesman had no immediate comment.
Monday was the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising that forced the Dalai Lama into exile, and Tibetan exiles around the world used the day to protest this summer's games.
Exiles demonstrated in New Delhi, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal. In Dharmsala, India, the home of the Tibetan government in exile, hundreds of Tibetans started a planned six-month march to their homeland but were stopped a day into it by police, who were acting on an Indian government order banning the march.
In Olympia, Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, Tibetans lit a Freedom Torch to start a relay intended to course through 50 cities and finish inside Tibet the same day Beijing will hold the opening ceremonies, Aug. 8.

In San Francisco, Tibetan activists plan to line the parade route to remind Americans of China's human rights abuses in their home country, organizers said.
Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951, and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand. China enforces strict controls on religious institutions and routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent state for most of that time.

The International Olympic Committee has said the games are not a political tool and has declined to comment on China's human rights record.

 

India Bars Tibetan Protest March -AP

By ASHWINI BHATIA
DHARMSALA, India — Police blocked hundreds of Tibetan exiles Monday from leaving an area near this northern Indian city at the start of a planned six-month march to Tibet to protest China hosting the Summer Olympics.

The march got under way on the anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule that forced the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, into exile in 1959. Dharmsala is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.

A recommendation by the Indian government led to the order banning the marchers from leaving the area outside Dharmsala where they stopped for the night, local police chief Atul Fulzele said.
Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said the Tibetan exiles have not decided whether to defy the ban.

In Tibet, Radio Free Asia reported that as many as 300 monks marched five miles from a monastery outside the capital Lhasa to the city's center on the 49th anniversary of the uprising.
The monks were demanding the release of monks detained last October when the Dalai Lama was given a Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, an honor that infuriated the Chinese government.
Authorities detained between 50 and 60 monks, according to the private broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress.

Protesters also rallied in New Delhi and in Katmandu, Nepal, where 10 activists were detained after hundreds clashed with police.
The India-to-Tibet march was to be one of several protests around the world before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, Tibetan exile groups said.

The exile groups say 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.
The local police chief, Fulzele, said the march goes against an agreement between New Delhi and the Tibetan government in exile.

None of the groups taking part in the march are affiliated with the government in exile; neither the Dalai Lama nor the government has issued an official statement on the march.

India, which had been sympathetic to the Tibetans' cause, has clamped down on public protests in recent years, fearing they could embarrass Beijing and damage relations between the two Asian giants.
The Dalai Lama, speaking in Dharmsala, accused China of "unimaginable and gross violations of human rights" in the Himalayan region.

The Dalai Lama said that for nearly six decades Tibetans "have had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation and suspicion under Chinese repression."

"In Tibet, repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the politicization of religious issues," he said.

In New Delhi, more than a 1,000 protesters marched and some wrapped themselves in bandages covered with fake blood and wore cutouts of the Olympic rings around their necks.

The bandages were meant to show "that the IOC (International Olympic Association) has done a great injustice by giving the permission ... the right to China to hold the Olympics," said Jigme Yeshi, a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Police fired tear gas and beat up hundreds of Tibetans who threw bricks and stones at police in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, officials said.

At least 10 protesters were detained near Boudhanath, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in Nepal, said a police official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

 

Hundreds of monks protest in Tibet -The Guardian

By Jonathan Watts in Beijing
March 11 2008
Tibetan monks, surrounded by Chinese soldiers, lay down their arms in the mountains after an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 that led to the exile of the Dalai Lama. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Hundreds of Tibetan monks have taken to the streets of Lhasa in the biggest protest against communist rule in almost two decades, it emerged today.

The show of defiance - which took place on the anniversary of a failed anti-Chinese uprising in 1959 - raised tensions in the Himalayan region, as the world spotlight shifts to Beijing's often harsh rule ahead of the Olympics.
Chinese police arrested 50 to 60 monks, according to Radio Free Asia. The government declined to confirm the figures, but a spokesman confirmed a demonstration had taken place.

"Yesterday afternoon in Lhasa city, there were monks from some temples who, under the instigation and encouragement of a small group of people, carried out an illegal activity that threatened social stability," a foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said. "We will continue to maintain social stability in accordance with the law and strike hard against all illegal, criminal activities."

Chinese authorities keep a tight grip on information from Tibet, but reports suggest the protest was the largest since 1989, when martial law was introduced by the then regional governor, Hu Jintao.
According to overseas Tibetan groups, the demonstration started when about 10 monks protested in front of the Jokhang, one of the holiest sites in Tibetan Buddhism. A large crowd gathered to protect them from armed police units, but they were detained.

Soon after, up to 300 monks from Drepung monastery, just outside Lhasa, marched in support. They were stopped at heavily guarded checkpoints, where dozens were detained. Hundreds of police then surrounded the main monastaries.
Champa Phuntsok, the chairman of the Tibetan government, said the monks were later released and the matter was resolved without incident. "It's really nothing," he told the Associated Press.
But Tibetan supporters overseas said the unrest indicated growing frustration at the lack of progress in talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing.

"I think the fact that these protests happened at all must be disturbing to China, particularly after Burma. For the first time since 1989, Chinese authorities face the possibility of unrest in Sera and Drepung," said Kate Saunders of the US-based International Campaign for Tibet. "Feelings are running particularly high because it is Olympics year and the spotlight is on China. Tibetans are more willing to take risks."
Tibetan groups in several other countries staged demonstrations on Monday, the 49th anniversary of an uprising led by the Dalai Lama against Chinese rule. In India, about 100 refugees in Dharamsala - the home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama - vowed to defy a police order and continue their march to Tibet. In Nepal, police used batons to break up a march on the Chinese embassy.

Far bigger risks, however, are faced by protesters inside Tibet, where imprisoned monks and nuns are often tortured. Those who have experienced such ordeals said they were astonished that Tibetans were once again willing to risk such treatment in pursuit of their ideals.
"It was shocking and surprising," said Ngawang Sangdrol, a nun who spent years in Lhasa's notorious Drapchi prison before seeking refuge in the UK. "I did not expect Tibetans to be so brave, because I know what happens. I experienced severe treatment and torture for doing something like this."

 

Tibetans Keeping Marching, Defing Ban -AP

By ASHWINI BHATIA
RANITAL, India (AP) — Hundreds of Tibetan exiles pressed ahead Tuesday with a march from northern India to their Himalayan homeland, defying a police ban on the demonstration against Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics.

The march, which started Monday, was expected to take six months, reaching Tibet during the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games in a bid to turn the Olympic spotlight onto China's often harsh 57-year rule over the Himalayan region.
It was one of several events launched around the world Monday by Tibetans commemorating their 1959 uprising against China. About 300 Buddhist monks also protested in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, one of the boldest public challenges to China's rule in recent years.
India, apparently fearful that the march could embarrass Beijing and jeopardize warming ties between the Asian giants, banned the exiles from leaving the Kangra district that surrounds Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Local police chief Atul Fulzele said Monday the ban was made following a recommendation by the Indian government.

On Tuesday, the marchers vowed to defy the order.
Walking single file, waving Tibetan flags and holding aloft pictures of the Dalai Lama and Indian pacifist icon Mohandas K. Gandhi, some 350 exiles followed the road down from the mountains toward the plains of northern India.
"Our spirits are high," said 32-year-old Tenzin Lhadon. "If police try and detain us, we will find a way to carry on," she said.

Dozens of supporters lined the road as the marchers passed, chanting "Free Tibet."
By nightfall, the protesters reached the town of Ranital, some 20 miles from the Kangra district border.
Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said the protesters would likely reach the border by Wednesday and would try to evade the police.

"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."
However, as they set up camp Tuesday, planting a Tibetan flag on a hilltop, several police officers joined the group, some filming the participants.
Police would not say how or when they planned to stop the marchers. "We are here to protect them," said Baldev Singh, one of the officers.

Marchers said they had faith that police would not arrest them
"The police will be ashamed to touch such peaceful marchers," said Miwang Nagyal, 63.
The exiles' defiance comes as Beijing confirmed Tuesday that Buddhist monks from the Drepung monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa held a demonstration on Monday. Overseas rights groups said about 300 monks marched toward the city, commemorating the failed uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.
In a second, smaller demonstration, nine monks shouted slogans near a temple in central Lhasa.
The march is believed to be the largest demonstration in the city since Beijing crushed a wave of pro-independence demonstrations in 1989. Since then, China has pumped investment into the region, vilified the Dalai Lama and tried to weed out his supporters among the influential Buddhist clergy — moves that have alienated some Tibetans.

The U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia and an overseas Tibetan Web site, phayul.com, reported that up to 71 people, mostly monks, were detained following the protests.
However, Tibet's chief administrator Champa Phunstok said authorities defused the incident without arrests.
"It's really nothing," he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of National People's Congress, China's annual legislative session. "Everything is really great."

Asked about the march, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, "Some ignorant monks in Lhasa abetted by a small handful of people did some illegal things that can challenge the social stability."
He said monks were dealt with "according to the law," but gave no details.

Drepung was sealed off Tuesday and increased numbers of armed police guarded temples in and around Lhasa, according to Radio Free Asia and phayul.com.
In Dharmsala, some 500 Tibetans held a candlelit vigil late Tuesday to support the marchers and protest the alleged arrests in Lhasa.

Many Tibetans say their territory was independent when communist troops arrived in 1950 and the Dalai Lama has campaigned for autonomy to protect its culture. Beijing says Tibet has been part of China for centuries and accuses the Dalai Lama of agitating for independence.

 

Tibetans Protest SF Hosting Olympic Torch -AP

SAN FRANCISCO ― Tibetan immigrants protesting Chinese control of the Himalayan region vowed Monday to make San Francisco, the only U.S. city to host the Olympic torch relay, the focal point of American demonstrations against the Beijing Games.

Demonstrators unfurled a Tibetan flag over the flight of white stone steps leading into San Francisco City Hall and held a portrait of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, above the crowd next to banners saying "Olympics in China, Torture in Tibet," and "Truth is our only weapon."

The protesters, some wiping away tears while singing the Tibet national anthem, also called on Mayor Gavin Newsom to reject the April 9 torch run and urged city officials to pass a resolution calling on China to improve conditions for Tibetans in their homeland.

"San Francisco has always stood for freedom and human rights," said Yangchen Lhamo, one of protesters, who like many of the women present wore the slim wrap dress that is part of the traditional Tibetan costume. "But Gavin Newsom has clearly sided with China on this."

Newsom's spokesman, Nathan Ballard, said the mayor was deeply concerned about human rights in Tibet, but believed the Olympics was not the forum to address political issues.

"It's important to remember that the Olympic spirit is one of international harmony and goodwill, and it transcends politics," Ballard said. "In this spirit, San Francisco is proud to be the only North American city to host the Olympic torch relay."

Monday was the anniversary of the 1959 uprising that forced the Dalai Lama into exile, and Tibetan exiles around the world used the day to protest against China's hosting of the summer Olympics.

Exiles demonstrated in New Delhi, India and Katmandu, Nepal. In Dharmsala, India, hundreds of Tibetans started a six-month march to their homeland.

In Olympia, Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympic games, Tibetans lit a Freedom Torch to start a relay intended to course through 50 cities and finish inside Tibet on the same day Beijing will hold the opening ceremonies, Aug. 8.

Tibetan activists plan to congregate in San Francisco in the days preceding the Olympic torch's arrival and line the parade route to remind Americans of China's human rights abuses in their home country, organizers said.

"The torch carries this message that China is a great, benevolent country," said Tonzin Wangchuk. "That's false, and it is important that we show the true colors of China."

Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand. Beijing enforces strict controls on religious institutions and routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say
they were essentially an independent state for most of that time.

China's official torch-lighting will be held March 24 in Olympia. The flame's route will include Mount Everest, in Tibet, in what protesters said was an attempt to legitimize China's hold on the region.

The International Olympic Committee has responded to pressure from activists by saying that although the games came be a catalyst for positive change, they are not a political tool and the organization will not comment on China's human rights record.

"We're not a political organization," IOC president Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this month. "There are organizations that are far more knowledgeable and powerful than we are to move on the political front."

 

Monks in Tibet go on hunger strike as protests spread - The Guardian

By Jonathan Watts in Beijing

Tibetan monks have gone on hunger strike to demand the release of protesters detained during the region's biggest demonstrations in almost 20 years, support groups said today.

The sit-down protest in Sera monastery, just outside Lhasa, comes amid reports that the protests against Chinese rule earlier this week have spread to a wider area than previously believed.
"We have heard from more than one source that monks in Sera are on hunger strike, demanding the release of imprisoned monks," said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet. "We don't know the number, but it seems there are many of them."

About a dozen monks were reportedly detained on Monday, when several hundred monks from Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries took to the streets to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Beijing.
During the boldest action since 1989, some waved the banned Tibetan flag and shouted slogans calling for more freedom.
It emerged today that a similar protest took place at Lutsang monastery in Qinghai, known in Tibetan as Amdo, where hundreds of monks reportedly chanted slogans calling for their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, to return.
According to the Free Tibet campaign, 100 monks from Myera monastery in Gansu also staged a demonstration.
Since then, there have been further demonstrations. In Lhasa, thousands of police are said to have used teargas to break up rallies. Gunfire was heard, but there were no reports of casualties.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the protesters in Lhasa were "seeking to spark social turmoil".
"This was carefully planned by the Dalai clique in a bid to separate Tibet and sabotage Tibetan people's normal life of stability and harmony," he told a news conference.
The Guardian was unable to confirm the reports from these regions, where the Tibetan communities are tightly controlled by the Chinese government.
A source in Lhasa said he had seen more than 20 military vehicles on the street and heard that roads to the monasteries were blocked off.
Exiled Tibetans and their supporters say thousands of police have surrounded the main monasteries, but so far the confrontation has not been violent.
"It seems as though police and military are not using excessive force at present. This would be unprecedented as a government response," said Saunders. "They appear to have been ordered to handle this carefully ahead of the Olympics."

With more demonstrations expected in the months ahead, China has declared a climbing ban on the north face of Mount Everest, ahead of the arrival of the Olympic Torch there this summer.
Last year, activists went to Everest's base camp and unfurled a banner saying "Free Tibet".
In India, exiled Tibetans who had vowed to march back to their homeland in a protest against the Olympics and the lack of freedom in the Himalayan region were stopped today when Indian police arrested over 100 of the marchers.

The upsurge in activism comes amid growing frustration with the lack of progress in talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Beijing.