NEW DELHI – Hundreds of Tibetan exiles will attempt to march from India across the border into Tibet to protest China’s hosting of this year’s Olympic Games, an exile group said Friday.
The march will be one of a series of protests in India before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, which the exiles say are being prepared amid China’s continued attempts to subvert Tibetan Buddhist culture and strengthen Beijing’s hold on the Himalayan region.
“The Chinese have said in the past that Tibetans are welcome to return home, so we are going to test that,” said Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which is organizing the march.
Rigzin said hundreds of members of his organization would depart from Dharmsala in northern India on March 10 – the day Tibetans commemorate a failed uprising against the Chinese in 1959.
Dharmsala has been a center for exiles since the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled there after the uprising and set up a government in exile.
Rigsin said the marchers intend to try to cross the border and walk all the way to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. He would not give details on the route of the march, and it remains unclear what sort of reception the marchers would receive from the Chinese authorities.
The Tibetan Youth Congress, which takes a more radical line in its protests against China than the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile, said it had not consulted the Dalai Lama over the protests.
The group called on all Tibetans to use peaceful means to protest the Games and Chinese plans to have the Olympic torch carried through Tibet.
Beijing insists that Tibet is historically part of China, but many Tibetans argue that the Himalayan region was more or less independent for centuries.
Exiles have recently expressed concern about rising numbers of Han Chinese migrating into Tibet, especially since a railroad route opened up in 2006.