Rallies in Indiamark 60 years of Tibet uprising
Dalai Lama supporters gather atDharamsala temple and in New Delhi to commemorate 1959 rebellion againstChinese rule.
Youth organisations of Tibetan exiles heldmarches in Dharamsala, New Delhi and other places [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]
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Supporters of the 83-year-old peace icon chanted and prayed at theBuddhist shrine in mountainous Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama established agovernment-in-exile after fleeing a deadly Chinese crackdown in Tibet in 1959.
Some had "Free Tibet" painted on their faces along withthe colours and distinct golden sun of the iconic flag.
The Dalai Lama himself was not present at the anniversaryceremony, but chief representatives of the exiled Tibetan administration andforeign dignitaries gathered for the solemn occasion.
"Tibet belongs to Tibetans," Prime Minister-in-exileLobsang Sangay said in a fiery speech to the gathering.
"Sixty years of the occupation of Tibet and the repression ofTibetans is too long," he said.
The Tibetan leader claimed that Beijing wanted to eradicate theTibetan culture with systemic policies and that it was stopping all flow ofinformation into Tibet.
He thanked all those who showed solidarity with the demand for amiddle way or autonomy within China, and urged Tibetans across the world tocontinue "our commitment to struggle for justice".
A Tibetan activist riding a horse escorts a vehicle with the picture of Dalai Lama in New Delhi [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]
Performers dressed in traditional attire danced and recitedTibetan songs at the temple for guests, which organisers said includedparliamentarians from 10 nations.
A minute's silence was observed at the outset to remember thosekilled when China brutally crushed the fledgeling Tibetan revolt - a crackdownthe government-in-exile claimed killed tens of thousands.
Tibetan activists also put up posters and marched in India'scapital, New Delhi, as police in riot gear patrolled the streets.
Thorn in China'sside
Buddhist Tibet, a vast Himalayan area of plateaus and mountains,declared independence from China in the early 20th century but Beijing tookback control in 1951, having sent in thousands of troops.
The Dalai Lama, chosen at the age of two in 1937 as the 14thincarnation of Tibetan Buddhism's supreme religious leader, was enthroned asthe head of state after the Chinese invasion.
His co-existence with the Beijing authorities was tense and whenthe Chinese authorities summoned him to an event without his bodyguards onMarch 10, Tibetans feared a trap that could endanger their leader.
Thousands of his supporters assembled at his summer palace toprevent him from leaving; thousands more demonstrated in Lhasa to demand theChinese depart, the Dalai Lama would later say.
Beijing sent more troops into Tibet, and in the bloodshed thatfollowed, refugees poured over the border into Dharamsala, already then asanctuary for Tibetan exiles fleeing Chinese repression.
There he formed a government-in-exile and demanded autonomy forTibet, a decades-long quest that would earn him worldwide respect as a figureof non-violence. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
He remains a thorn in the side to China, which adamantly rejectsany suggestion of Tibetan autonomy and blacklisted the Dalai Lama as adangerous "separatist".
Beijing continues to be accused of political and religiousrepression in the region, but insists Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms andthat it has brought economic growth.
Max Oidtmann, who specialises in modern Chinese history atGeorgetown University in Qatar, said China has invested a lot in Tibet andwhile "life is getting better in many ways", Tibetans want to betreated as equal citizens.
"They [Tibetans] feel like they don't have a lot of controlor decision-making power over their lives," Oidtmann told Al Jazeera.
"The primary goal of most Tibetans would be to get morerespect from the Chinese state and to actually receive the privileges which areguaranteed to them by the Chinese constitution."
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWSAGENCIES