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Associated Press
Dehra, India – Police dragged away more than 100 Tibetan exiles in northern India on Thursday to prevent them from continuing a march to their homeland to protest China’s hosting of the Olympic Games.
Clutching Tibetan flags and pictures of the Dalai Lama and Indian pacifist Mohandas K. Gandhi, the protesters began a hunger strike after being charged with threatening the “peace and tranquility” of the region.
The demonstrators had vowed to march from India to Tibet to coincide with the start of the games. Indian officials – fearing the march would embarrass China – banned the exiles from leaving the Kangra district that surrounds the city of Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India.
The marchers were stopped by police Thursday in the town of Dehra, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the district boundary.
Protesters resisted arrest by sitting or lying down, but were hauled into police buses. There was no violence, witnesses said.
They shouted “Free Tibet!” and other slogans, and some wept as they were taken away.
The protesters were produced before a magistrate late Thursday and were asked to sign a statement promising to refrain from political activity “now and in the future,” Tenzin Palkyi, a march coordinator, told The Associated Press.
The marchers refused and were told they would be held for 14 days, she added.
No government officials were available to verify Palkyi’s comments.
Nine foreigners who were marching with the Tibetans, but were not arrested, also began a hunger strike, said American Clay Di’Chro. The foreigners were from the United States, Scotland, Germany, Poland and Australia.
Despite the arrests, organizers vowed to continue the march.
“We will have to find a way,” Palkyi said. “Our legal team will deal with the police.”
The march began Monday, the day Tibetans commemorated a 1959 uprising against China. Demonstrations took place around the world, including a protest by 300 Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, one of the boldest public challenges to China’s rule in recent years.
Soldiers and police were deployed around two Buddhist monasteries in Lhasa, witnesses and residents said Thursday.
A man who answered the phone at the Sera monastery said monks had been confined inside. Another Lhasa resident, who also refused to be identified, said the Sera and Drepung monasteries were encircled by army personnel and police.
It is extremely difficult to get independent verification of events in Tibet since China maintains rigid control over the area.
Earlier Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang confirmed that protests had taken place, but said the situation had “stabilized.” Qin accused exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of inciting separatism, though he provided no evidence.
“This is a political scheme by the Dalai group, attempting to separate China,” he said at a regular news briefing.
Qin also said China’s determination to “safeguard national unification” is firm, so further protests “will not take place.”
Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically part of China, but many Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping it with Han people, the majority Chinese ethnic group.
Associated Press writer Tini Tran in Beijing contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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