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Exiled Tibet Govt gives tacit backing to Olympic torch protests

The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile tacitly backed protests dogging the Olympic torch relay, asserting people had a right to oppose China's "appalling" rights violations in Tibet.
AFP | By Pratap Chakravarty, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 08, 2008 02:07 PM IST

The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile on Tuesday tacitly backed protests dogging the Olympic torch relay, asserting people had a right to oppose China's "appalling" rights violations in Tibet.

"As long as they are peaceful, it's the right of any NGO or individuals to protest the appalling human rights abuses that are going on in Tibet," the spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, Thubten Samphel, told AFP.

He said the Dalai Lama still backed China's right to hold the Games, but did not speak out against protests in India and abroad.

"We support the right of China to host the Games, which will make it better integrated with the international community," Samphel said by telephone from Dharamshala in northern India, where the Tibetan spiritual leader is based. "Also, the Dalai Lama has made appeals to NGOs that since we are guests in India, we must abide and respect the sensitivities of the Indian government towards China," Samphel said.

He argued the protests over the torch relay in London and Paris were "largely peaceful." "Whether they were unlawful or not is for the countries where the protests occurred to decide," the spokesman said.

On Monday, the Olympic flame relay was cut short in Paris due to constant disruptions by hundreds of campaigners protesting over China's controversial rule of Tibet and a range of other human rights issues.

Widespread protests also disrupted the previous day's leg in London, while activists have promised more of the same in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The torch is scheduled to come to India -- home to at least 100,000 Tibetan refugees -- on April 17, and Indian authorities fear there will be even bigger demonstrations.

Indian police meanwhile said Tuesday they had stepped up security for the Dalai Lama following a tip-off on a possible threat to the Nobel peace prize laureate from the rival Shugden Buddhist sect over his anti-Chinese stand.

"So far we have not found any concrete evidence that establishes the apprehension expressed by the Tibetan security department, but we have stepped up security for the Dalai Lama," Dharamshala police chief Atul Fulzele said.

The Dalai Lama's own security detail said it had received warnings of a possible threat. "We have some such inputs which we want (Indian) agencies to verify," said Nodup, the government-in-exile's security minister who uses only one name.

"Following the protests against Chinese rule in Tibet and the manner the Chinese government tried to link it to the Dalai Lama ... (this) has raised fears the Chinese authorities may use Shugden elements to serve their purpose," Nodup said in a written dispatch to Indian police.

The Dalai Lama, besides being escorted by loyal Tibetan guards, has Indian paramilitary troops and intelligence personnel protecting his mountain palace.

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