Sat, Mar 29, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Hunger strike supports Tibetans

THREE WISHES The group has requests for the Chinese government, the International Olympic Committee and the international community

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of Tibetans pray as they launch a 49-hour hunger strike in front of the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in Taipei yesterday to protest China's bloody crackdown in their homeland.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

A group of Tibetans in Taiwan launched a 49-hour hunger strike yesterday after a nearly two-week sit-in in front of the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in protest at China's bloody crackdown in Tibet earlier this month.

China cracked down on a peaceful demonstration by Tibetans on March 10 to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

So far, the conflicts in Tibet and Tibetan communities across China have left more than 130 dead and more than 1,000 injured, Western media and the Tibetan government-in-exile reported.

The Chinese government has said the death toll was only a little more than 20.

After closing down Lhasa for more than a week, Chinese authorities arranged a visit for foreign media to show that the situation had been brought under control in the city.

However, around 30 monks rushed out unexpectedly during the press conference in a monastery, saying the government was lying to the world and that everything they saw was arranged by the state.

"The surprise protest by Tibetan monks during a press conference arranged by Chinese authorities in Lhasa for foreign media showed that the repression is still ongoing, and that the Chinese government is trying to cover it up with lies," Chow Mei-li (周美里), president of Taiwan Friends of Tibet, told the crowd at the site of the hunger strike.

"Tibetans in Taiwan, as well as their Taiwanese supporters, will start a 49-hour hunger strike to remember those who sacrificed themselves for the freedom of Tibet over the past two weeks," she said.

The number 49 was chosen to symbolize the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising.

With banners listing their demands, the Tibetans have asked the Chinese government to immediately stop the crackdown. They have also asked the International Olympic Committee to halt its plan to pass the Olympic torch relay through Tibet, and they have asked the international community to intervene by sending in an independent team of investigators.

The hunger strike will continue until 4pm tomorrow.

In related news, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said he would like to visit the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile after he steps down from his presidency on May 20.

Chen made the remarks while receiving Tsegyam Ngaba, the Chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Taipei, at the Presidential Office.

Chen shared Ngaba's view that the Tibet issue is not a problem between Han Chinese and Tibetans, but an issue of how to defend the universal value of human rights.

Chen condemned China for accusing the "Dalai clique" of masterminding the recent unrest in Tibet, saying that the slander was just "unacceptable for anyone."

Chen was scheduled to visit the site of the hunger strike last night to show his support.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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