Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crowds protest around world for freedom in Tibet

Crowds protest around world for freedom in Tibet

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of pro-Tibetan protesters marched in New York City on Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

The protest was mirrored by similar demonstrations in Europe and Asia as Tibetan exiles and their supporters urged an end to Chinese rule in the region.

Demonstrators marched to the United Nations wearing T-shirts saying "Tibet — 50 years of resistance." They planned to move on to the Chinese Consulate and other locales.

A consulate spokesman said officials have taken security precautions but have no other response to the protests.

Tuesday marks a half-century since the March 10, 1959, riots inside Tibet that led to a Chinese crackdown and, later that month, the Dalai Lama's dramatic flight across the Himalayas and into exile.

There has been a widening rift between those still in Tibet and their Chinese rulers since new violence engulfed the region last year.

In India, thousands of young Tibetans marched through the streets Tuesday in Dharmsala, the town where the Dalai Lama set up his base after fleeing Tibet.

The spiritual leader, now 73, told followers there that Chinese rulers were treating his people "like criminals deserving to be put to death." In unusually harsh language, he said they have pushed Tibetan culture and identity almost to extinction and "brought untold suffering to the land and people of Tibet."

In London, more than 100 protesters marched near the Houses of Parliament, some dressed in monk outfits or bright traditional Tibetan dresses.

"I can hold this flag here, but a Tibetan person couldn't hold their flag in their country," said Julie Speechley, one of the protesters in London. "I could say `freedom for Tibet' here, but a Tibetan person could be imprisoned and tortured for that."

Similar protests were held Tuesday across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

In Germany, Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck called on world leaders to encourage China to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama. A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Berlin.

Some 80 people lit white candles in front of the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.

In Canberra, the Australian capital, a handful of protesters scuffled with police outside the Chinese Embassy after about 300 had marched from Parliament House.

Police arrested four people after they broke through temporary fencing bordering a designated protest area, police said. The phone at the press office in the Chinese Embassy in Canberra rang unanswered Tuesday.

In Nepal, home to thousands of Tibetan exiles, police blocked about 100 Tibetans who demonstrated on the outskirts of the capital Katmandu chanting "Stop killing in Tibet! Free Tibet!"

Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia; Gavin Rabinowitz in Dharmsala, India; and Laura Nichols in London contributed to this report.

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