NEW DELHI: Dozens of Tibetan exiles burned an effigy of Chinese President Hu Jintao as they reached the Indian capital Sunday carrying a symbolic flame which they said would burn along with the official torch for the Beijing Olympic games.
“Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Stop killings in Tibet,” the protesters chanted during a demonstration held near India’s parliament.
The Tibetan torch relay began last week in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, after protesters angry over China’s human rights policies disrupted the official Olympic flame-lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia, Greece.
The official Olympic torch was scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Monday.
Tibetan exiles planned to highlight their opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet with the relay torch and stage their own version of the Olympics from May 15-25 in Dharmsala.
On Sunday, Konchok Yangphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan Youth Congress, said the group opposed China’s taking the Olympic torch to Tibet because it was Beijing’s way of showing the world that Tibet is its part of Chinese territory.
“Our stand is that Tibet is an independent nation,” he said.
Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.
The Tibetan Youth Congress will fly the symbolic torch to San Francisco on Monday, Yangphel said.
Organizers plan to take the exiles’ torch by air and road to cities on five continents in countries such as the United States, France, Australia, Japan and Nepal, among other destinations.
They plan to finish the relay in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on Aug. 8, as the world’s attention turns to Beijing for the Olympic games.
China’s rule in Tibet has faced its biggest challenge in decades as demonstrations started by monks in recent weeks exploded into rioting, looting and arson.
China has reported that 22 people died in the violence, but Tibet’s exiled government says about 140 Tibetans were killed.
India usually allows Tibetan exiles to protest peacefully, but in the wake of recent anti-Chinese protests New Delhi said it would not tolerate actions that embarrassed China. Earlier this month, Indian authorities detained and prevented several dozen demonstrators from marching to Tibet, where they planned to arrive at the start of the Beijing Olympics.