Scores of demonstrators marched on the Indian parliament in New Delhi Wednesday to demand international support for the people of Tibet. The march comes on the 45th anniversary of the flight into exile of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Carrying Tibetan flags and wearing "Free Tibet" headbands, scores of demonstrators rallied at a roadblock set up by police near the Indian parliament. They shouted slogans calling for an end to Chinese rule in Tibet, and demanded that Beijing free Tibetan political prisoners.
For roughly 80 of the demonstrators, the rally marked the end of a 29 day march to New Delhi from Dharamsala, the northern Indian town which has been home to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, since 1959.
Dolma Choephel, an organizer of the march from the Tibetan Youth Congress, says the international community needs to hear more about the problems facing Tibet. "The Tibetan people inside Tibet, they are suffering a lot. The situation inside Tibet is deteriorating day by day," she says. "Even though the Chinese government is saying it is developing inside Tibet. But nothing is happening like that." March 10 marks the 45th anniversary of Tibet's National Uprising - the day ordinary Tibetans surrounded the Dalai Lama's summer palace in the Tibetan city of Lhasa to prevent the Chinese military from taking him into custody. The Dalai Lama then fled to India.
Tibetan rights groups say that more than a million Tibetans have died as a result of Chinese rule in Tibet since then. They accuse Beijing of the torture and murder of political prisoners.
China has repeatedly rejected criticism of its policy in Tibet, which it insists is a part of China.
The Dalai Lama has dropped his demand for independence for Tibet - instead pushing for greater autonomy within China. He won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful campaign to improve the human rights of Tibetans and to preserve Tibet's culture and environment.
Tibet's government in exile knows that is not an easy task. It accuses Beijing of relocating thousands of ethnic Han Chinese to Tibet, in order to dilute Tibetan culture. Tashi Wangdi is the representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi. "Ever since the Chinese occupation of Tibet the Tibetan culture has been systematically destroyed," he says. "Tibetan natural environment was destroyed and Tibetan people as a people are being reduced to insignificant minorities into Tibet itself with the transfer of Chinese population into Tibet."
The Chinese government says it is open to talks with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet. But it also accuses him of seeking independence for the region. The two sides held two rounds of peace talks in September 2002 and May 2003. But a third round, expected in October 2003, was never held.
Earlier this year, the Dalai Lama has called on the Indian government to play the role of mediator between Tibet and China.