Hundreds of Tibetan monks took to the streets of Lhasa on Monday in what is believed to be the biggest protest in the Himalayan region since 1989, when Beijing crushed a wave of pro-independence demonstrations.
Beijing insists that Tibet is historically part of China, while many Tibetans claim the region has been virtually independent for centuries. Although Chinese authorities tightly control information from Tibet, witnesses described violent clashes between monks and police on the outskirts of Lhasa. According to Radio Free Asia, protesters and onlookers were beaten and arrested, says Zhuang Pinghui in The South China Morning Post.
The demonstrations, which are likely to unsettle Beijing in a year when China is under the international spotlight for hosting the Olympic Games, were timed to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the 1959 anti-Chinese uprising during which the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India and tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed, says Jane McCartney in The Times.
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There were protests elsewhere, too, said Pinghui. On Monday, hundreds of Tibetan exiles set off from Dharamsala in northern India on a six-month march to Tibet; protesters were hurt when police broke up a march on the Chinese embassy in Nepal. In Greece, activists complained of police harassment when they lit a torch at Olympia, the site of the ancient Games.
The Dalai Lama marked the anniversary by warning that Tibet's language, customs and traditions were "fading away" as Tibetans became a "significant minority" in their homeland. Tibetans have "had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation and suspicion under Chinese repression", he said which "continues to increase with numerous unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, and the denial of religious freedom".
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