02/27/2009, 00.00
TIBET – CHINA
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Monks on prayer march surprise police which then surrounds monastery

Police wants to arrest organisers. Exiled Tibetans mark new year with prayers, protests and hunger strikes. Communist authorities show major fire works display in deserted squares.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than a hundred monks in Qinghai greeted the Tibetan new Year (Losar) with a protest march against Beijing. In Dharamsala (India) exiled Tibetans marked Losar with hunger strikes and protests against the Chinese government.

Last Wednesday morning monks from Lutsang Monastery in Mangra Country (Guinan in Chinese) marched (pictured) in a long line holding a candle for about 1.5 kilometres till the centre of the city where they presented local officials a list of demands to fulfil Tibetan aspirations. They also told Chinese authorities that the Losar boycott would be broader that the 2008 street protests.

Caught unaware police reacted by telling march organisers to hand themselves in or they would be dealt with “severely,” this according to Radio Free Asia.

Tibetans have decided not to celebrate their traditional New Year Losar, which this year fell on 25 February, to protest last year’s bloody crackdown.

To counter the boycott Communist authorities have decided to organise large scale celebrations.

In Lhasa New Year’s Eve saw fire works light up the sky over the city’s streets, left deserted by a populace unwilling to celebrate.

The day after, those same streets were patrolled by a large number of anti-riot police in full gear with rifles and gas canisters.

The Potala Palace, the historic home to the Dalai Lama, was closed.

Stores and offices were not allowed to open to show that it was a holiday.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, which represents exiles living in Dharamsala, called on Tibetans around the world not to celebrate the New Year and declare this a “black year”, a time of solidarity and protest.

About 50 activists have gone on a hunger strike during the first three days of the New Year.

Elsewhere exiled groups are organising peaceful protests.

The Regional Tibet Women’s Association organised a prayer vigil for Tibetan victims.

On Thursday tibetan exiles demonstrated in Dharamsala against Chinese persecution by wearing black armbands.

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