By ABDUL QADIR,
Associated Press Writer
GAYA, India - Tibetans gathered at the traditional site of Buddha's enlightenment for their largest prayer ceremony of the year have taken advantage of the crowds to campaign for a boycott of Chinese products.
Tibetans are among Buddhists of the Mahayana sect who have come from around the world for the Kalachakra prayers being conducted by the Dalai Lama, the 67-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader.
On Monday, Tibetans outside the prayer venue were handing out pamphlets and appealing to people to "stop buying made-in-China products" and to "phase out" any such products that they already own. They also called on vendors to stop selling anything made in China.
The Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, Students for a Free Tibet, Friends of Tibet and "Boycott Made in China Campaign" Committee were sponsoring the campaign.
The pamphlet lists alleged atrocities by Chinese forces in Tibet, including murders, destruction of monasteries and imprisonment of Tibetans. China denies that its forces have committed atrocities and says those in prison are criminals.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed 1959 revolt against Chinese rule. He was followed by more than 120,000 Tibetan refugees who settled with him in the northern Indian mountain town of Dharmsala, where Indian authorities have allowed him to set up a government-in-exile.
The first focus of the boycott campaign is Tibetans themselves. From thermos bottles to chili paste — almost everything the Tibetan refugees sell on the streets of Dharmsala is made in China.
Many Tibetan refugees sell Chinese goods to finance their escapes to India and support themselves. Many consider Chinese goods to be cheaper and better than Indian products.
The exiled government in 1996 passed a resolution urging Tibetans to boycott Chinese goods. It drew little response.
Organizers hope the boycott can be spread through the 135,000 of the world's 6 million Tibetans who live abroad — mostly in India, but also in the United States and Europe — according to Sonam N. Dagpo of the Tibetan exile government's Information Department.