Tibetans in Exile Say: Time to Go Home

It is time, Chime Youngdung says, to walk home.

"We are going to our homeland," the Tibetan man proclaimed in the hills outside Dharamsala, India, the spiritual center for Tibetan Buddhism.

His head covered by a hat wet with sweat, his water bottle empty, he leads a group of Tibetan exiles who plan to walk 1,500 miles from northern India all the way to the Tibetan border. "We are here in India, but we are guests in India. And guests should go back one day."

As Youngdung and the 50 or so men behind him, each in saffron robes, continued their six-month journey, Tibetans today continued their unprecedented protest against the Chinese authorities who took over Tibet more than 50 years ago.

For the sixth straight day they massed in multiple cities throughout Tibet, according to their allies in India, and for the sixth straight day received the brunt of the Chinese military crackdown.

They are leading the most significant demonstrations against Chinese rule in two decades. Tibetan exile groups accuse the Chinese government of killing at least 30 people and attacking protestors with bullets and tear gas. The Chinese claim 10 people have been killed.

"It is almost all over Tibet," the Tibetan prime minister in exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, told ABC News from his office in Dharamsala. "The people are trying to voice their dissatisfaction [at] being brutally repressed."

They are, he said, "fighting for freedom. Fighting for human rights. Fighting for Tibet identity."

In the Tibetan capital today, troops and armored vehicles patrolled the streets. China has given the marchers an ultimatum: Stop by Monday night and we'll go easy on you. The alternative was not spelled out.

"China has detained hundreds of Tibetans for peaceful protests this week in Lhasa and we are very concerned about their whereabouts and well-being," Lhadon Tethong, the executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, said in a statement from Dharamsala.

"The situation demands immediate international attention and the Chinese government must be held accountable for its brutal crackdown on Tibetan protesters," Tethong said.

The Tibetan government has been based in this town carved into the side of a hill for nearly 50 years. In 1959 the Dalai Lama launched a failed attempt to throw China out of Tibet and fled to Dharamsala by horseback.

But while he and his government support the independence that the protestors in Tibet are fighting for, today the prime minister distanced the Dalai Lama from their tactics.

"If we are unable to remain non-violent, the strength of our movement will be lost," Rinpoche said.

Protestors in Tibet have set more than 160 fires since Monday, when the demonstrations began on the anniversary of the Dalai Lama's uprising. They have attacked government offices, burned supermarkets, schools, and hospitals, according to the official Chinese media.

"If they become violent then how can we support? We appreciate their intention, their determination. But we cannot appreciate their action," Rinpoche said.

The Tibetan exile groups accuse the military of opening fire on the protestors, and western tourists who have been kicked out of Tibet describe scenes of war.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...