U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern Wednesday for the well-being of three Tibetan activists who launched a hunger strike more than three weeks ago in front of U.N. headquarters in New York.
Mr. Ban, in a statement released by a spokesman, said he "affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest." However, he said he remains concerned about the health of the strikers.
The three wheelchair-bound protesters, weakened by their fast, told VOA Wednesday they had been visited by top U.N. human rights official Ivan Simonovic on Monday. The protesters said they told Simonovic they want "concrete action" by Chinese authorities to ease the ongoing crackdown on Tibetan dissent in their homeland, before they will consider ending their hunger strike.
At least 26 Tibetan Buddhists, including monks, nuns and their supporters, have set themselves on fire in the past 12 months to protest China's ongoing crackdown. Protesters are also demanding the safe return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Activists accuse Beijing of suppressing Tibetan culture, religion and other freedoms.
For its part, Beijing calls the Dalai Lama a "splittist" (separatist), and accuses him of fomenting rebellion in Tibetan regions.