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January 16, 2002
0153 IST

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Despite Chinese pressure, Tibetan protests continue

Vivek Fernandes in Mumbai

Despite the efforts of the Vilasrao Deshmukh government to ensure the visit of Chinese delegation passed off without any untoward incident, mostly protests by Tibetans, the latter managed to make their point, though in a very low-key manner.

While Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and his wife Lao Ann received a warm welcome at The Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, a little distance away at Azad Maidan, over 150 Tibetans were on a hunger strike protesting against the premier's visit.

The organisers, Friends of Tibet, said the protest was meant to draw the attention of the visiting Chinese delegation and the people of Mumbai to the exploitation of Tibet by its Chinese rulers.

Wearing red headbands with 'Free Tibet' written across them, they carried placards with the names and pictures of their missing or dead fellow-countrymen.

A huge picture frame of the Dalai Lama finds pride of place at the gathering. One strategically placed banner proclaims - 1.2 million Tibetans killed during Chinese rule.

"The Chinese have others on their side because of their economic stature, but we have truth on our side and in the end truth shall prevail," says one of the organisers who addressed the gathering.

Pamphlets accusing the Chinese of carrying out 'ethnic cleansing' in Tibet are circulated to passers-by and mediapersons.

"India has over 90,000 Tibetan refugees. Everyone will come together to protest against Zhu Rongji's visit. We have already staged demonstrations in Delhi and we plan to organize protests in Bangalore too," a spokesperson of the Friends of Tibet said.

"The Chinese consulate and the Chinese ambassador had pressurised the Vilasrao Deshmukh government not to allow us to conduct our meeting. However, we managed to get police permission late on Monday evening after we got our influential friends to plead our cause," he revealed.

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