Tibetan refugees, activist groups and other supporters in New York City marked the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule by demanding independence and protesting the upcoming Beijing Olympics. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.
Waving Tibetan and American flags, hundreds of demonstrators marched from the U.S. Federal Court House in downtown New York up to the United Nations building. At the same time, hundreds of other protesters rallied outside the city's Chinese Consulate.
Tibetan advocates say the protests are part of a worldwide effort to call attention to China's record of human-rights violations and to urge nations and businesses to boycott the upcoming Olympics in Beijing if China does not improve the situation in Tibet.
Tsering Paldin heads the regional chapter of the Tibetan Youth Congress, one of the organizers of the New York protest. He says China is using the Olympics as a political tool, and it has yet to clean up its human-rights record. "They (the Chinese) made a promise that they will improve the human rights situation in China and in Tibet, but the fact is they have intensified their crackdown, especially in Tibet," he said.
Paldin says he hopes the protests in New York and others that took place around the world, will encourage people to take action on local, national and international levels. In Greece, a Tibetan freedom torch-lighting ceremony was held, and pro-independence exiles in northern India began a months-long march, hoping to cross the Chinese border into Tibet.
One protester who came to New York for the demonstrations says she sees the upcoming Beijing Olympics as a chance for her to voice her opposition to China's policies. Pema Yoko is the national coordinator in Britain for Students for a Free Tibet, another group that helped organize the event.
"I think we can make a difference, especially on an occasion like this. For me, growing up and being born in exile, I have not had this kind of opportunity and I feel like the Olympics is my time to fight China finally," he said.
Yoko says China should not be allowed to glorify itself on the world stage as long as Tibet is oppressed and illegally occupied.
Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1951 and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India at the end of that decade. Since then, Tibetans worldwide have protested China's occupation.