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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan Youth Group Goads China

May 29, 2008

Christian Cotroneo, Foreign Correspondent,
The National (United Arab Emirates)
May 26. 2008

Tibetan protesters scale the wall to get into the Chinese Embassy in
New Delhi. AP

NEW DELHI // When they stormed the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi last
year, about 30 members of the Tibetan Youth Congress breached the
front gate and chained themselves to a flag pole.

In March, about 22 protesters managed to get inside.

Today, Tenzin Lungtok, culture secretary for the youth organisation's
Delhi branch, gleefully declares: "It is not possible for even a dog to enter."

The newly upgraded Chinese Embassy stands alone in the capital for
its fortress-like defences, towering walls, strung with razor-sharp
barbed wire. Just in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Members of the Tibetan Youth Congress -- an organisation dedicated to
independence for the region that has been part of China since 1959 --
take particular pride in the paranoia.

"Chinese Embassy officials are worried that people will come again
and again," a beaming Mr Lungtok said.

While the Tibetan government-in-exile, headed by the Dalai Lama, aims
for the so-called "middle way" in its relations with China, the
Tibetan Youth Congress is taking a decidedly more boisterous route.

The organisation, 30,000 strong in India, Europe and the United
States, has staged a number of rallies and protests since it was
founded in 1970 -- all of it greeted with stony silence from Beijing.

That is, until very recently. This month, Beijing branded the
organisation a terrorist regime, linking it to the likes of al Qa'eda.

Citing a senior Tibetologist, the Chinese state-run news agency
Xinhua accused the organisation of training and arming itself, while
reaching out for support from such international terrorist
organisations as al Qa'eda and East Turkistan groups. Again, the
group could not be more delighted.

"I feel a little bit complimented," said Mr Lungtok. "Because the
Tibetan Youth Congress is doing a peace demonstration. We don't
create any violence. Nor do we do any terrorist activities. We just
protest at the embassy."

Mr Lungtok, 29, sees the sheer absurdity of the accusation as an
indictment of Beijing - and how far the communist regime will go to
malign pro-independence elements.

"I don't have any problem with it," he said. "Because the whole world
knows that Tibetans, whenever they protest, they protest peacefully."

And often.

In fact, the Tibetan Youth Congress has made an almost daily
spectacle of downtown New Delhi streets. Yesterday, about 300 Tibetan
students from universities across India converged near India Gate in
the capital to deliver a memorandum to the United Nations. The
protest was organised by the All India Tibetan College Students' Mass
Movement, which has strong ties – including membership overlaps –
with the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Among their demands, students urged the United Nations to pressure
China into cleaning up its human rights record before being permitted
to host the Olympic Games.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the students also demanded a "significant
and result-oriented dialogue" not with Beijing -- but with the Dalai Lama.

The demand for dialogue with the exiled government's old guard
suggests more than a generation gap. It underscores a philosophical
rift that may only widen as the Tibetan Youth Congress steps up
protests for the 2008 games.

"We are taking a different route. We have chosen independence which
is contrary to His Holiness's stand," said Jigme Yeshi, president of
the All India Tibetan College Students' Mass Movement, and also a
member of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, has been aiming to calm Beijing
with assurances of peace during the Olympics, while seeking autonomy
for Tibet within Chinese borders.

Mr Yeshi, 21, admits that the independence-seeking efforts of Tibetan
youth "act as a hindrance to the peace process." But China, he said,
is not buying peace.

"He's reaching out to the Chinese, but the Chinese are not reaching
out to him. You cannot have a clock with a single hand. You need both hands."

Mr Lungtok, like his peers in the Tibetan Youth Congress, remains
reverent when speaking of His Holiness -- even while betraying a hint
of discord.

"I can't oppose his approach," he said. "But for me, I think His
Holiness is speaking for both the Tibetan and Chinese people. He does
not want to create any kind of enmity between these two countries. He
just wants autonomy within the Chinese government.

"It's been like 40 or 50 years since China has been having talks --
and talks and talks. But [there have been] no results from the talks."

That sense of frustration may be swelling the ranks of the Tibetan
Youth Congress and pushing the organisation to stage more protests than before.

"We find this time a very good opportunity because of the Beijing
Olympics. There will be more protests coming up," Mr Lungtok said.

And if Mr Lungtok has learned one thing over the years, when it comes
to getting China's attention, "protest works."

Of course, it does not mean Beijing will be taking calls from the
Tibetan Youth Congress any time soon.

"We had a signature campaign," Mr Lungtok said. "We sent the
signatures of the people who were supporting complete independence
and for the release of [jailed] Tibetans in Delhi as well as -- and
we sent it to the Chinese Embassy.

"It was sent back to us."

Still, the group looks for other signs that they are reaching Beijing
-- from the newly fortified Chinese Embassy in New Delhi to the
recent proclamation that they are a terrorist organisation.

"The Chinese government is very worried about the Tibetan Youth
Congress," Mr Lungtok said. "They take the Tibetan
government-in-exile very lightly and the Tibetan Youth Congress very strongly."

China is not the only country taking Tibetans seriously. Look no
further than the celebration of Republic Day in India, which marks
the adoption of India's first constitution and its transition from a
British dominion to a republic.

Typically, the national holiday is among the capital's highest
security events, taking place on Jan 26. It is a time when the city
centre hosts heads of states, amid pomp and ceremony -- flanked by an
estimated 11,000 security personnel.

On April 17 when the Olympic torch relay passed through New Delhi, Mr
Lungtok said, there were more than 25,000 security personnel on hand.

Again, he is quick to crack a smile. "It's because of the Tibetan
Youth Congress."
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