FISHERS, Indiana: A Ball State University professor said his campaign for Tibetan independence is drawing new support with the recent anti-China protests in the mountainous Asian nation.
Larry Gerstein serves as president of the 10,000-member International Tibet Independence Movement, which has worked since the late 1980s to free Tibetans from Chinese government rule.
More than 8,000 people from Gerstein's organization and other pro-Tibetan groups were expected to arrive in San Francisco by Tuesday, when the Olympic torch reaches the city for its brief tour in America before the Summer Games in Beijing.
"This uprising in Tibet and the brutal crackdown on the Tibetan people has really inspired all of us," said Gerstein, 56, of Fishers, an Indianapolis suburb. "It has made clear that their spirits (in Tibet) haven't been destroyed and their desire for independence hasn't been wiped out.
Gerstein, a psychology professor, receives e-mail queries everyday from supporters across the country and abroad. Demonstrations he has helped coordinate at the Chinese consulate in New York and elsewhere attract as many as 500 people.
The protests that began last month in Tibet have been led by Tibetan Buddhist monks. Chinese security forces have used force to quash the demonstrations. Tibetan exiles say nearly 140 people have been killed, but Chinese officials put the number at 22.
Gerstein said he would like to see the United States and other countries boycott the Summer Games. He also said plans to take the Olympic torch through Tibet should be canceled because it could spur more violence.
Arjia Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist monk living in Bloomington, Indiana. also hopes the current turmoil and pressure on China brings about change for Tibet.
"Maybe this thing that started out rough and difficult," he said, "can become a good thing".
Rinpoche, like the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled political and spiritual leader, does not advocate total independence for Tibet. They would like to see Tibet remain a part of China but with the autonomy to run its own affairs.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, www.indystar.com