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Dharamsala is Center of Exiled Tibetan World  - 2004-12-03

Political dissent of a different kind is occurring in northern India where exiles from Tibet continue their struggle against Chinese repression. It has been 50 years since china launched the process to annex Tibet. While there are some signs of a possible thaw in the relationship between Tibet and Beijing, there has also been growing frustration within the Tibetan exile community. VOA’s Patricia Nunan has their story from the northern Indian city of Dharamsala.

Thirty-two year-old Tsering is making t-shirts as part of an international campaign to raise awareness about the imprisonment of Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a critic of China's human rights record in Tibet.

Chinese authorities convicted the monk of involvement in a series of bomb blasts in China in 2001 -- charges his supporters say are completely unfounded and politically motivated. Now, he is due to be executed within weeks.

TSERING: "People like him, like Tenzin Delek, is very rare in Tibet. All the Tibetans inside Tibet were oppressed by the Chinese and they were very intimidated, and no one wants to step forward to speak against the authorities there. So Tenzin Delek is a very brave man.”

Tsering has also painted Tenzin Delek's image on walls, in the hope that tourists will take up the monk's cause.

Tibet's exiled government has been based here in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala since shortly after the Chinese invasion of their homeland in 1950. And it's here that the exile community continues to wage its struggle for the preservation of Tibet's culture, the end of political repression, and for Tibetans' right to rule themselves.

China says that's not necessary, rejecting the human rights charges and insisting Tibet already enjoys significant self-rule. And Beijing may be winning the war of attrition. Tibet's exiled government dropped its demand for independence in 2001, opting instead for greater autonomy within China.

Thubten Samphel is spokesman for the government in exile.

THUBTEN SAMPHEL: "There is no one nation or country in the world which recognizes the central Tibetan administration as a government in exile, or recognizes that Tibet is independent. So with such large forces against us, it doesn't make sense."

There is probably no more recognizable face of Tibet than that of the Dalai Lama, the region's head of state and government and its spiritual leader.

It's his campaign of peaceful resistance against China that Tibetans have followed for the past 50 years, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize. But now he's 69-years-old, and there are fears some may resort to using violent tactics against China when he passes away.

This film, shot in Dharamsala and released earlier this year, is about four young exiled Tibetans who turn to terrorism to advance the Tibetan cause. Although there is no group within the exiled community that supports such an extremist view, filmmaker and former activist Pema Dhondup says the frustration felt by young Tibetans is real.

PEMA DHONDUP: "I think all these characters were as much a part of me, and I believe as much a part of many young Tibetans. It's only a question of when, who is going to do it, and who is going to exploit it.

For the time being, however, Tibetans are sticking to their peaceful tactics and campaigns like the one underway to save Tenzin Delek. They hope in the long run to prevail against China, one small battle at a time.