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Exiles give voice to Tibetan protests amid Chinese crackdown
AP[Sunday, March 16, 2008 06:55]
DHARMSALA, India (AP) - Tibetan exile communities -the public voice of a region now largely sealed off from the rest of the world - ramped up their protests on behalf of demonstrators inside Chinese-ruled Tibet.

Hundreds gathered peacefully for a candlelight vigil in the Indian town of Dharmsala, the headquarters of Tibet's government-in-exile, where
the Dalai Lama was expected to speak with reporters Sunday.

Other gatherings Saturday in western China, Australia, Nepal and India's capital descended into violence when police tried to disperse crowds of distraught exiles.
The exiles took to the streets a day after protests by Buddhist monks in Tibet turned deadly in the largest demonstrations in nearly two decades against Beijing's 57-year rule over Tibet.

China's official Xinhua News Agency reported 10 people killed in Tibet, but the government-in-exile put the number at 30, all of them protesters slain by Chinese forces. Many more were injured and the government-in-exile claimed that the death toll could be high as a 100. It did not say how it obtained the information.

With Tibet sealed off by Chinese authorities and only bits of information trickling out, the exiles stepped up their efforts to highlight their cause and express solidarity with the protesters inside the Himalayan region.

Nearly 1,000 exiles gathered in Dharmsala's town square where they burned Chinese flags and chanted «free Tibet» and «stop the killing in Tibet.
Shops and restaurants run by exiles in the town were closed, along with several other establishments.

Later about 500 people, most of them monks, gathered for candlelit prayers outside the temple of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader.

Dozens more protesters in Dharmsala launched a new march to Tibet on Saturday, days after Indian authorities arrested more than 100 exiles during a similar effort. The marchers plan to reach Tibet as the Beijing Olympics begin in August.
«We will keep on marching until we reach Tibet. And even if these marchers are arrested, there will be more,» said organizer Chemi Youngdrung of the National Democratic Party of Tibet. «We are thankful to the people in Tibet who are laying down their lives.

Indian authorities made no moves on Saturday to arrest those taking part in the new march, although police walked alongside them. One officer, Ram Nayak, told The Associated Press that he had received no orders to detain the marchers.
In New Delhi, however, police clashed with and detained about 15 pro-Tibet protesters trying to reach the Chinese Embassy. No serious injuries were reported.

In a separate protest in the center of the Indian capital, a group of nearly 200 Tibetan exiles began a hunger strike. The group carried placards that read «Stop Olympics in China» and «Stop genocide in China.

In neighboring Nepal, police used bamboo batons to break up a demonstration by about 200 Tibetans outside the United Nations office. At least 20 were arrested.

«All we want is the Chinese to stop killing Tibetans and we are here to urge the international body to help us,» said 31-year-old Yeshi Lama.
In Australia, media reported that police used batons and pepper spray to quell a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney. The Australian Associated Press reported that dozens of demonstrators were at the scene and that five were arrested.

Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically a part of China. But many Tibetans argue that it was virtually independent for centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping it with Han people, China's majority ethnic group.

Associated Press Writers Ashwini Bhatia in Dehra, India, and Binaj Gurubacharya in Katmandu, Nepal contributed to this report.
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