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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 04:45 GMT
Tibetan exiles vent their anger
By Iain Haddow
BBC News

Tibetan protestors outside Chinese embassy in London
Tibetan exiles say China is killing their homeland and culture

As protests continue in Tibet against Chinese rule, exiles held a demonstration in London.

Six short words were audible far away from the Chinese embassy on Portland Place in central London.

"China, China, China, out, out, out."

Just a handful of policemen guarded the grand old Georgian building at Number 49.

Arms folded, the officers stood on the doorstep as the five yellow stars of the Chinese flag fluttered above.

On the surface, it was business as usual for the diplomatic mission of the People's Republic of China.

But across the street, outside the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects, about 100 Tibetan exiles and supporters huddled together, waving banners and the yellow, red and blue flag of Tibet.

"Stop the killing," shouted the speaker on the megaphone.

"In Tibet," chanted the crowd in response.

"What do we want. Free Tibet."

Discipline and despair

The demonstrators sat cross-legged on the pavement so the speakers could be heard more easily.

Chinese Embassy, London
Police officers stand guard outside the Chinese embassy in London

A minute of silence to mark the deadline given by the Chinese authorities for protesters in capital Lhasa to give themselves up was only broken by the click of press camera shutters.

And then every Tibetan at the protest seemed to join in to sing the Tibetan national anthem and a poem written by their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Buddhist nun, Gyaltsen Drolkar, 37, was among the protesters.

She says she enjoys singing but back in Tibet, her enthusiasm earned her harsh treatment at the Drapchi detention centre, a modern-day gulag in Lhasa.

She is one of the Drapchi 14, singing nuns whose recordings are legendary within the Tibetan dissident movement.

She was already serving a four year prison sentence for shouting "Free Tibet" during a peaceful demonstration in 1990.

But when she and 13 other jailed nuns recorded songs from their prison cell on a smuggled tape recorder, their sentences were dramatically increased.

Gyaltsen Drolkar, Tibetan Buddhist nun
Buddhist nun Gyaltsen Drolkar says she was beaten and tortured in jail

The singing led to her serving a further eight years behind bars.

Speaking through an interpreter, she said: "I was tortured badly.

"They tied me up with ropes and hanged me upside down from a tree."

Because she was hanging by her legs, her long traditional Tibetan dress covered her face.

"I never saw who was giving me electric shocks with a cattle prod," she said.

It is three years since she fled Tibet via India and she has now been granted asylum in Belgium.

"I used to call my family back in Tibet", she said.

"But I stopped a while ago. I'm too frightened to get in touch because of the situation at the moment.

"I've already made my family suffer too much because of my political opinions."

Another of the Drapchi 14, Namdrol Lhamo, recounts a similar story.

Her six year jail term was doubled for her part in the singing.

"I am very worried", she said.

"A lot of people in Tibet will receive long sentences, they will be tortured and killed for their actions...

"We cannot bring back those who have already been killed, but I urge China to release those who have been detained."

China maintains that Tibet has officially been part of the nation since the mid-13th Century, but this is disputed by many Tibetans.
Namdrol Lhamo, Tibetan Buddhist nun
Namdrol Lhamo's says her sentence was doubled for her singing

And Ms Lhamo denied the protests in Tibet were part of a campaign orchestrated by what the Chinese embassy describes as the Dalai Lama "clique".

The Lhasa protests began on 10 March - the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule - and gradually escalated, culminating in a day of violence late last week.

China says 13 people have been killed by rioters while Tibetan exiles say at least 80 protesters were killed in a crackdown by Chinese security forces.

"These protests inside Tibet are spontaneous," Ms Lhamo said.

"Tibetans are controlled too much and their feelings are boiling up."

'Moral responsibility'

Outside the Chinese embassy, the protesters were addressed by two British politicians.

Earlier, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker - president of the Tibet Society - delivered a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown from six Tibetan students in the UK who are staging a 24-hour hunger strike as part of a protest.

In it, the students called for an end to the violence and a UN investigation as well as unfettered media access in Tibet.

A cheer went up when the vice-president of the European Parliament, Edward McMillan-Scott MEP, denounced China for its actions.

Norman Baker MP and Edward McMillan-Scott MEP
British politicians denounced China at the Tibetan protest

"We are outside the Chinese embassy," he told the demonstrators. "That building represents a terror state."

On 6 April, London will host the Chinese Olympic torch as part of a worldwide relay in the run-up to the Beijing Games.

Mr McMillan-Scott accused China of reneging promises it made to improve human rights when it was awarded this year's Olympics and called for a "serious debate" in the EU about a boycott.

But while several banners denounced the Beijing Olympics as "China's Games of shame", none called for a boycott.

The Dalai Lama himself has also not called for such a move.

However, his representative for northern Europe, Tsering Tashi, told the BBC the world had a moral responsibility to act on the situation in Tibet.

"People in Tibet are extremely helpless," he said.

"We've been transformed into an insignificant minority in our own land by the massive influx of ethnic Chinese."

"If the Tibetan culture disappears it will be a tragedy for the whole world."

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