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Tibetan Exiles in India Plan March Home

Tibetan exile organizations have announced plans for a mass march back to their homeland from India. They are appealing for Tibetans worldwide to stage a "global uprising" before and during this year's Olympic games in the Chinese capital, Beijing. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Five leading organizations representing Tibetans in exile announced Friday a coordinated campaign to bring renewed international attention to their cause of resistance against Chinese rule.

At a joint news conference in the Indian capital, New Delhi, the groups announced plans to attempt a mass march from their home in exile, Dharamsala, through New Delhi and into Tibet.

Tibetan Youth Congress President Tsewang Rigzin says the walk will begin on March 10, the anniversary of the 1959 uprising in their homeland. He says their goal is to reach the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

"This is a return march to Tibet. Our issue is with the Chinese government," he said. "We trust the Indian government will ensure safe passage for these Tibetans who will be returning to Tibet."

Organizers say they have not yet asked the Indian government for permission to march, and they will not seek approval for the event from the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

China considers Tibet an integral part of its territory and has accused the Dalai Lama of leading a separatist movement. He has been in exile in India for the past 49 years.

China is not expected to accept any demonstration of this sort, especially one that would try to enter Tibet and distract from Beijing's hosting of this year's summer Olympic Games.

The president of the Tibetan Women's Association, B. Tsering, expressed optimism, however, that Chinese guards will welcome those attempting to cross the border.

"China should allow the Tibetans to enter. In the past they have made several announcements that Tibetans, if they want to, they could return," she said. "So we want to see how committed they are to their word."

The Tibetan groups also are calling for a protest against the global Olympic torch relay, which begins in March.

Organizers of the march, however, would not say whether they are asking Tibetans or others to disrupt the torch procession. They say they hope Tibetans worldwide will begin engaging in "non-violent direct actions and mass protests" during the relay and the Olympic Games.