Tibetans light 'independence torch' in Delhi
The torch, brought from Dharamshala, will be carried around the world ahead of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.delhi Updated: Mar 30, 2008 15:57 IST
Several dozen Tibetans in India on Sunday unveiled an "independence torch" in New Delhi that will be carried around the world in an anti-China protest ahead of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The torch was brought from the northern Indian town of Dharamshala -- home to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, and the government-in-exile.
The next stop for the protest flame is San Francisco, where the real Olympic torch is expected on April 9.
"This relay is to protest Chinese rule in Tibet. We also don't want the Olympic torch to go to Tibet because it is not a part of China," said Urgyen Chophel, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress.
China has come under increasing international pressure over its crackdown against protesters in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and Chinese provinces bordering the Himalayan region.
Tibetan activist groups have put the death toll from weeks of unrest at 135-140 Tibetans. China says rioters killed 18 civilians and two police officers.
Protesters disrupted the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Greece last Monday.
The official torch relay starts on Tuesday in Beijing when the flame is scheduled to depart for the Kazakh capital Almaty -- the first stop on an odyssey through 19 countries during April.
The international relay will be followed by an epic three-month tour around China, including Tibet.
The Indian Olympic Association has said that it has taken adequate security measures for the flame to be displayed in the country.
"Protesters here will try to see that the torch is not lit," Chophel said about the flame when it arrives in New Delhi on April 17. The "independence torch" will also be taken through a few European cities, and finally to Tibet during the next three weeks, organisers said.