Police detained more than 100 Tibetan exiles marching in northern India to Tibet in protest of China’s Olympic Games early Thursday morning, organisers and officials said.
Indian authorities feared the march, which began on Monday and was expected to last about six months, could embarrass Beijing. Police had banned the exiles from leaving the Kangra district that surrounds Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Shortly after the protesters set off early Thursday morning, police stopped the march in the town of Dehra, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the district boundary, and forced about 130 protesters into buses.
The protesters shouted “Free Tibet” and other slogans as they were being detained, but there was no violence at the scene, witnesses said.
The group, which included several foreigners, was taken to a nearby police station, said Sitaram, a local police official who goes by one name.
Organisers vowed to continue the march.
“We will have to find a way,” said Tenzin Palkyi, one of the march coordinators. “Our legal team will deal with the police.”
The march was one of several events launched Monday as Tibetans around the world commemorated their 1959 uprising against China, including a protest by 300 Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, one of the boldest public challenges to China’s rule in recent years.
Beijing confirmed on Tuesday about 300 Buddhist monks from the Drepung monastery outside Lhasa marched to the city to commemorate the failed uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.
In a second, smaller demonstration, nine monks shouted slogans near a main temple.
The protests are believed to be the largest in the city since Beijing crushed a wave of pro-independence demonstrations in 1989.
Since then, China has pumped investment into the region, vilified the Dalai Lama and tried to weed out his supporters among the influential Buddhist clergy – moves that have alienated some Tibetans.
The US government-funded Radio Free Asia and an overseas Tibetan Web site, phayul.com, reported as many as 71 people, mostly monks, were detained after the protests.
However, Tibet’s chief administrator, Champa Phunstok, said authorities defused the incidents without arrests.
“It’s really nothing,” he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, China’s annual legislative session. “Everything is really great.”
Asked about the march, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, “Some ignorant monks in Lhasa abetted by a small handful of people did some illegal things that can challenge the social stability.”
He said the monks were dealt with “according to the law,” but gave no details.
Drepung was sealed off on Tuesday and increased numbers of armed police guarded temples in and around Lhasa, according to Radio Free Asia and phayul.com.
Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically part of China, but many Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping it with Han people, the majority Chinese ethnic group. (AP)
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