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Indian security tense over protests against Hu

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 11:17 IST
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With China insisting it does not want any Tibetan protest during President Hu Jintao's four-day visit to India next week and the Tibetans determined to prove a point, Indian security agencies are in a tizzy.

"We are trying to make sure Hu's visit is not marred by protests. But considering that Tibetan demonstrators have an uncanny ability of sneaking past cordons in two's and three's and holding impromptu sit-ins, we are taking all precautions," a senior security official said.

Already, New Delhi has served Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan poet and general secretary of Friends of Tibet group, with an order barring him from leaving the town of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh until November 25. The hill town is home to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The order, issued by the office of the superintendent of police, threatens Tsundue with prosecution under the Foreigners Act of 1946 if he fails to obey the fiat.

Tsundue had led high-profile protests during the visits of Chinese Premiers Zhu Rongji and Wen Jiabao in 2002 and 2005 respectively.

Officials of China's Department of External Security Affairs and the Central Security Bureau have had discussions with their Indian counterparts to finalize Hu's itinerary and look into the arrangements made to keep protesters at bay.

Nearly 150,000 Tibetan refugees have made India their home and have been protesting against China's "illegal occupation" of Tibet. But despite giving the Dalai Lama sanctuary, India, like all countries, does not recognize his government-in-exile. And Tibetans in India are known for the daring protests.

"We are not going to be cowed down by security restrictions on us. We will see to it that our voices are heard and we will demonstrate," Baldeo Pandey, spokesperson for Friends of Tibet, said in Chandigarh.

"Hu's visit is a great opportunity for us in exile to rise up and perform our duty as citizens of Tibet by reminding him that we will not rest until Tibet is independent," he added.

During his stay in the capital, the Chinese president is scheduled to stay in the Taj Palace Hotel. But unlike during US President George W Bush's visit in March when the hotel was out of bounds for both guests and visitors, there will be no restrictions on movement of guests.

"We have instructed the hotel management and police to be strict on entry of persons," said a home ministry source.

This will not be the first time President Hu might encounter opposition. During a visit to the US in April, Hu faced protests from supporters of Taiwan and the religious movement Falun Gong as well as Tibetans.

In fact President Bush then expressed personal regret to President Hu for a serious breach of security during an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn.

A woman protester belonging to the Falun Gong movement managed to get past the detailed security arrangements and began yelling at President Bush saying: "Stop him from killing. Stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong."

The woman, later identified as Wenyi Wang, 47, had gained access to the event with a temporary White House pass and was cleared through all levels of security.

Considering that Chinese leaders place high importance to symbolism and protocol, it remains to be seen if Hu's visit in India remains incident free.

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