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Tibetan Activists Begin March From India to Tibet to Protest Chinese Rule

A hundred Tibetan refugees have begun a march from India to Tibet to protest Chinese rule in their homeland. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the march began as Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said Tibet continues to witness increased repression and brutality under Chinese rule.

Thousands of supporters waved off the 100 marchers as they started their trek from the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, armed with posters and Tibetan flags. Their goal is to reach the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

The march is one of several protests organized by Tibetan exile groups before the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

The marchers are mostly young Tibetan activists, some of whom have never seen their homeland. They include Buddhist monks, nuns and a high-school student.

They are not revealing what route they will take to reach Tibet, because New Delhi does not allow Tibetan refugees to mount anti-Chinese campaigns from India.

But President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Tsewang Rigzin, says they want to send a strong message to China and the international community that Tibetans will continue to fight what they call Beijing's illegal occupation of Tibet.

"We are trying to reinvigorate the freedom movement to fight the Chinese occupation of Tibet and we want to show the Chinese that Tibetans will never keep quiet until Tibet is free," said Rigzin.

The march was launched on the 49th anniversary of Dalai Lama's escape from Lhasa after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama - Tibet's spiritual leader - is not associated with the march, but before it began he strongly denounced Chinese rule in Tibet. He said for nearly six decades, Tibetans have lived in a state of constant fear and intimidation under the Chinese.

He said repression continues to increase in Tibet with numerous, unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, and denial of religious freedom.

The Dalai Lama called for the international community to use the forthcoming Olympic Games to pressure the Chinese to uphold the Olympic ideals of freedom of speech and equality.

China has controlled Tibet since 1951, and considers the region an integral part of its territory.