Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Indian Tibetans 'defy march ban'

Tibetan marchers in India
The marchers say they are determined to continue

Leaders of Tibetan refugees in India say they are defying a ban preventing them from marching to Tibet in protest over China hosting the Olympics.

The authorities on Monday said they had barred protesters from leaving Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh state.

The district includes Dharamsala, the northern hill town where the Dalai Lama heads the Tibetan government in exile.

Meanwhile China has said monks in Tibet's capital Lhasa, staged a protest against Beijing's rule on Monday.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, has called for greater pressure on China over its human rights record.

Rights violations

Correspondents say onlookers cheered the group of marchers on Tuesday as they walked along the mountain roads. No police were seen.

"This is the fun part now," Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, told the Associated Press news agency.

Tibetan marchers in India
The marchers have not said what route they are taking

"We are ready for any kind of obstruction. We will be very peaceful but when so many people are determined to give their lives up, no police can stop us."

About 100 activists began their walk on Monday as part of pro-independence protests ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Their march coincided with the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's escape from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

They walked 20km (13 miles) from Dharamsala before local police served a restraining order against them which they said had been issued by the authorities in Delhi.

The marchers say that their aim is to expose what they say are serious human rights violations in Tibet.

"Tibetan refugees have the right to return to Tibet, the land from where we come," said Tsewang Rigzin, leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress - one of five organisations staging the march.

Tibetan exiles chanting against China

"This is the first major obstacle we are facing but we remain committed to marching. We want to do nothing more than go back to our country and help end the suffering of our brothers and sisters living under brutal Chinese occupation," he said.

India has in the past been sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, correspondents say, but in recent years it has not allowed large-scale public protests for fear of embarrassing Beijing.

Police also say that the planned march to Tibet is in breach of an agreement between Delhi and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

'Illegal things'

Meanwhile China on Tuesday said that it had quashed a protest by Buddhist monks in Lhasa.

Some reporters say that dozens were arrested.

"Yesterday afternoon some monks in Lhasa, abetted by a small handful of people, did some illegal things that challenged social stability," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

"As for how to deal with these detained Tibetans, they have been dealt with according to the law."

On Monday, some 1,000 Tibetan exiles clashed with police in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, while trying to march to the Chinese embassy.

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Tibet protests in India and the US


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