Thursday, August 07, 2008

Nepal arrests anti-China Tibetans

Police clash with Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu, Nepal, 7 August, 2008.
Nepalese police moved in to disperse the Tibetans who were praying

Hundreds of Tibetans have been arrested in Nepal's capital during a protest against Chinese policy on the eve of the opening of the Olympics in Beijing.

Around 2,000 Tibetans, including monks and nuns, gathered in Kathmandu to highlight what they said was religious repression in Tibet.

The protesters gathered outside one of the world's biggest Buddhist shrines, praying and chanting mantras.

But later, police with batons moved in to disperse the large crowd.

More than 20,000 Tibetan refugees live in Nepal after fleeing China in 1959.

The Tibetan exiles wore yellow jackets with slogans including "Stop cultural genocide in Tibet" and "Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama" - referring to their spiritual leader.

They said they wanted to tell the world that their religious rights were not being respected.

"We timed our demonstration just before the Olympic Games begin in China to try to draw maximum attention," Lakpa, an activist, told the Associated Press news agency.

Others called for imprisoned Buddhists to be released.

"Many Tibetans including monks and nuns are tortured and imprisoned by China," Karma, a 54-year-old nun, holding a yellow and white Buddhist flag, told the Reuters news agency.

"We are protesting for their release and appealing to the international community to help to release these religious people," she said.

The exiles are also demanding the release of the eleventh Panchen Lama, an important Buddhist figure, allegedly abducted by the Chinese authorities as a child.

In the Indian capital, New Delhi, nearly 4,000 Tibetans took to the streets in one of the biggest protests in recent months, saying China had no right to hold the Olympic Games.

A poster of Dalai Lama torn during scyffle between the police and Tibetans in Kathmandu, Nepal, 7 August, 2008.
Protesters said they wanted to highlight religious repression in Tibet

Hundreds of Tibetan exiles also marched in Dharmsala in northern India, where the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile is based.

Police move in

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says there were scuffles earlier in the day as police made a show of strength against the Tibetan exiles.

A huge poster of the Dalai Lama was torn and then the police just watched as the crowd, mostly seated, chanted Buddhist prayers and listened to speakers alleging that Beijing was involved in religious persecution in Tibet.

Around 1500 local time (0915 GMT) the security forces decided enough was enough and started arresting people, says our correspondent.

He said the crowd said that they did not want violence and many had moved forward in batches, singing prayers as they offered themselves up to the waiting police and army vehicles.

According to the Associated Press news agency, some the protesters threw rocks and bricks at police, who retaliated by beating some of them with bamboo batons.

More than 500 protesters were detained, according to agency reports.

Our correspondent says renewed emphasis on religion comes after months of mainly political protests by Tibetan exiles here.

The Tibetans have been holding regular protests after deadly anti-government riots broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and elsewhere in China in March.

Many Nepalese people have little sympathy for the Tibetan cause, says our correspondent. They see Tibet as a territory the Chinese are rapidly developing, he adds.

Neighbouring China is an important trade partner and aid donor to Nepal, and Nepal does not allow anti-China activities. Hundreds of protesters have been detained over the past few months.

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