08/04/2008, 00.00
INDIA - TIBET - CHINA - NEPAL
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Tibetan Olympic torch, sign of freedom and justice

by Nirmala Carvalho
In imitation of the Olympic torch, it has crossed five continents to recall the Tibetan question and Chinese repression against rights in the country, and call for Tibet's freedom. Meanwhile, yesterday in Nepal 253 pro-Tibet demonstrators were arrested.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - The Tibet Freedom Torch (TFT) arrived in Dharamsala yesterday, after departing from Olympia (Greece) on March 10, traveling around the world and across the whole of India, bringing a message of truth and justice for Tibet. Meanwhile, yesterday Nepalese police arrested at least 253 demonstrators, many of them Tibetan monks and nuns, who'd tried to carry out a silent protest march in front of the Chinese visa office in Kathmandu, with flags and banners reading "Free Tibet" and "We want religious freedom."

On its arrival, the torch was welcomed by hundreds of Tibetans, to the singing of "Bhod Gyalo" ("victory for Tibet").

Tsering Choedup, coordinator for the International Tibet Support Network, explains to AsiaNews that "we were denied permission to light the torch from exactly the same spot as the officially Beijing torch, but we managed to light the TFT very close by. This TFT stands for the human rights and the freedom of all peoples all over the world, and especially in Tibet. Freedom of every kind is being denied, and this TFT symbolises hope. For us too, it may seem demoralizing that the Beijing Olympics are going on as scheduled with the world leaders attending the opening ceremony, but this TFT has come to strengthen us, and we appeal to the world leaders who will attend the Beijing Olympics, to use this opportunity to speak to the Chinese authorities to resolve the Tibetan issue and call for a meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama".

The TFT passed through more than 50 cities throughout the world, in imitation of the Olympic torch, before reaching India on July 9. It then departed from New Delhi on July 10, and, after traveling through 28 cities, welcomed by pro-Tibet supporters, it will arive in Ladakh on August 8.

Chime Youngdung, president of the National Democratic Party of Tibet, says "the Chinese government has and is still trying to fool the world using the Beijing Olympics to cover its atrocities in Tibet and its abysmal human rights record in China and abroad". After the repression in March, with more than 200 Tibetans killed and thousands arrested, a campaign of "patriotic reeducation" has been underway in the region, forcing Tibetans to demonstrate fidelity to the communist party and to disown the Dalai Lama.

B. Tsering, president of the Tibetan Women's Association, also says that "the presence of the international community [in Dharamsala yesterday] is very encouraging, even though the Beijing Olympics are scheduled to begin on Friday. The Tibetan Freedom Torch represents the hope and aspirations of the Tibetan people for freedom and justice. Hope never fades, and global society empathises with the Tibetan cause. Thousands of children - all born in exile - were present".

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