Tibetan "independence torch" relay reaches New Delhi

New Delhi - A Tibetan "independence torch" unveiled recently reached New Delhi on Sunday and will be carried around the world in an anti-China protest before the Olympics in Beijing, Tibetan activists said.

The torch, which was unveiled on March 25 in the northern Indian hill-town of Dharamsala, where the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his government-in-exile are based, was received by a gathering of 200 Tibetan refugees outside the Jantar Mantar monument in central Delhi.

"The main objective of launching the Tibetan independence torch relay is to highlight the historical fact that Tibet was always an independent nation until the Chinese invasion in 1949 and to protest the Beijing Olympic torch relay through Tibet," Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), said.

"The torch relay will also bring awareness in the international community regarding the dire situation in Tibet under the occupation of China."

"This is proved by the protests inside Tibet which clearly indicate the deep-rooted resentment of Tibetan people against the Chinese government," he added.

According to the TYC, the Tibetan torch will be taken to San Francisco, where the Olympic torch is expected on April 9.

"It will cover cities in different continents like the Olympic torch ... it will go to cities in US, Canada, then to Europe, Australia, Japan, Nepal and finally reach Tibet near the opening ceremony for the Olympics on August 8," TYC spokesman Konchok Yangphel said.

China's handling of the demonstrations in Tibet and other provinces around the Himalayan region has drawn international criticism.

Anti-China demonstrations and unrest erupted in Tibet on March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. Three days later, those protests escalated into riots in the capital Lhasa.

The Chinese government has said 22 people were killed in the violence in Tibet, but the Tibetan government-in-exile said about 140 people were killed, most of them Tibetans shot by Chinese police.

An estimated 100,000 Tibetan refugees currently live in 35 settlements and numerous smaller communities across India. The Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans fled to India after China cracked down on the Tibetan uprising of 1959. (dpa)

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