By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, June 21: A group of Indian Tibet activists today condemned the parading of the Olympic torch through Tibet’s capital Lhasa, accusing China of “using the Olympic Games as a tool for legitimizing its control in Tibet”.
Indian and Tibetan protesters wrapped in Tibetan National flag stage a street play in Dharamsala, on Saturday, June 21, 2008, to protest against Olympic torch relay going through Tibetan capital, Lhasa, accusing China of doing it against the interest of Tibetan people. (Phayul)
The group joined by Tibetans, all wrapped in Tibetan National Flag, took part in a street play depicting the “current situation of fear in Tibet” and China’s policy of using the games for consolidating its grip on Tibet. They also shouted slogans demanding China to leave Tibet and “Free Tibet Now”.
The Olympic torch, which was marred by protests in greater part of its relay around the world, was paraded through Lhasa, on Saturday; starting in front of the Norbulingka and ending below the Potala Palace, both former residences of the Tibet’s exiled leader the Dalai Lama.
The three-hour relay was paraded amid tight security with police on guard every 200 metres and hand-picked spectators along the torch relay route, according to media reports. Reports described seeing trucks full of troops and riot police in other areas.
Contrary to China's vows to allow unimpeded media access in the lead-up to the Games, only a selected group of journalists accompanied by officials was allowed into Lhasa for the relay, Reuters reported Saturday, adding “The city remains off bounds to free reporting”.
While protesting the Tibet leg of torch relay, the Indian activists also called on the Chinese government to release details of the 12 people sentenced by courts on Thursday and Friday for allegedly involved in the March unrest as reported earlier by China’s state news agency.
Tibetan Government-in-exile claim they have confirmed information that Chinese crackdown in Tibet has killed more than 200 Tibetans following widespread anti-China unrest since March 10. It also says 1000 more were injured and several more are being held under arbitrary arrest after the heavy military crackdown on Tibetan demonstrators.
China released 1,157 people who were involved in the riots in Lhasa, the official Xinhua news agency said on the eve of the relay, a move, described by AFP as, seen as an attempt to defuse tension about the event.
The move also comes amid concerns raised by Amnesty International, earlier this week, that a quarter of about 4,000 people detained by police during the riots in Tibet in March are unaccounted for. China is also routinely accused by other rights and activist groups of turning Tibet into a virtual prison.
“We are completely against the arrival of the torch in Tibet after all the violent crackdown on Tibetan people,” Tenzin Norkyi, who took part in today’s street protest here, told Phayul.
The Chinese government considerably shortened the original relay route in Tibet to just one day instead of three. The event was further cut short from eight hours to three, citing last month's massive earthquake.
Rights groups and pro-Tibet protests have condemned China’s decision to take the torch to Tibet and demanded China to cancel the torch relay through Lhasa because of the recent anti-China unrest.
Speaking to Phayul, Shibayan Raha, the coordinator of today’s protest, said “We condemn the decision of the Chinese Government to take the torch to Lhasa. Today’s torch relay in Lhasa was clearly a rehearsed event without any open support and welcome from the Tibetan people”.
“For the Chinese Government, to carry the torch to Tibet is to show to the world that Tibet is part of China and to showcase a harmonious Tibet,” the Indian activist, who is also the Outreach Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet (India), said.
“Chinese government’s plan to showcase a harmonious Tibet regardless of the deep resentment of Tibetan people against its rule will fail,” he added.
According to him, after the recent unrest in Tibet has sown more awareness about the issue among Indian masses and that there has been a growing support for the Tibetan cause from them.
He feels Indians have greater role to play for the Tibetan cause and thinks his government is not “up to the mark” even when it knows the historical truths about Tibet.
“China wants to show to the world that everything is fine in Tibet; reality we know is Tibetans are dying there and Tibet is locked down to the outside world,” Mr Raha asserts.
“We will seize every opportunity to highlight the situation in Tibet during the days leading to the Olympics in Beijing,” Chintan Raj from Mumbai, who is currently in the town on Tibet study tour under ‘Gurukul Project’ initiated by Universal Responsibility Foundation in Delhi, said.
“In the case of Tibet, we believe in only one thing - ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, he says.