Exiled Tibet govt gives tacit backing to Olympic torch protests
AFP[Tuesday, April 08, 2008 13:29]

NEW DELHI: The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile on Tuesday tacitly backed protests dogging the Olympic torch relay, asserting people had a right to oppose China's "appalling" rights violations in Tibet.

"As long as they are peaceful, it's the right of any NGO or individuals to protest the appalling human rights abuses that are going on in Tibet," the spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, Thubten Samphel, told AFP.

He said the Dalai Lama still backed China's rights to hold the Games, but did not speak out against ongoing protests in India and abroad.

"We support the right of China to host the Games which will make it better integrated with the international community," Samphel said by telephone from Dharamshala in northern India, where the Dalai Lama is based.

"Also, the Dalai Lama has made appeals to NGOs that since we are guests in India, we must abide and respect the sensitivities of the Indian governmeent towards China," Samphel said in a guarded statement.

He also argued the protests that dogged the torch relay in London and Paris were "largely peaceful."

"Whether they were unlawful or not is for the countries where the protests occurred to decide," the spokesman said.

On Monday, the Olympic flame relay was cut short in Paris due to constant disruptions by hundreds of campaigners protesting over China's controversial rule of Tibet and a range of other human rights issues.

Widespread protests also disrupted the previous day's leg in London, while activists have promised more of the same in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The torch is scheduled to come to India -- home to at least 100,000 Tibetan refugees -- on April 17, and Indian authorities fear there will be even bigger demonstrations.

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