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Originally published Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Tibetan protesters defy India, plan to march on

About a hundred Tibetan exiles on a six-month protest march to their homeland defied the Indian government's orders to halt Tuesday, and...

The New York Times

NEW DELHI — About a hundred Tibetan exiles on a six-month protest march to their homeland defied the Indian government's orders to halt Tuesday, and could be headed for a conflict with the local police.

The protesters, mostly monks and nuns, began their march on Monday, the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet in 1959, and planned to walk 13 miles on Tuesday despite a restraining order the Indian government issued Monday evening, organizers of the march said.

The order, served by Indian police officers after marchers had finished walking Monday, states that they are not to leave Kangra district, which includes Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government in exile in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, until further notice. The marchers expect to reach the district's border in the next two days.

"We are determined to continue our march," said Tsewang Rigzin, the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, in a telephone interview from the march. Rigzin, 37, moved from Vancouver, Wash., to Dharamsala five months ago to lead the congress, an activist group.

"Our issue is with the Chinese government, not the Indian government," he said. "We trust the Indian government will not intervene."

The march is one of several international protests related to Chinese rule in Tibet that are under way before the Summer Olympics in Beijing this August. Tibetan immigrants worldwide held protests on Monday, the anniversary of the uprising, which led to the exile of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader.

Chinese officials in Beijing said that about 60 monks in Tibet who joined the protests Monday were arrested.

India hosts an estimated 130,000 refugees from Tibet, who are promised protection from repatriation and issued papers to work. Their Indian-born children receive Indian citizenship. But the Indian government does not support outspoken activists critical of China, and in some cases has limited their movements.

The marchers, who say they do not have the backing of the Dalai Lama, plan to walk from Dharamsala to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

The march is a way to alert the rest of the world to "what China is trying to cover up under the pomp and show of the Olympics of 2008," said Tenzin Tsundue, a writer and advocate of Tibetan independence who is on the walk.

Rights groups slam China's upgrade

In its annual human-rights report released Tuesday, the State Department said it no longer considers China one of the world's worst human-rights violators, a decision that immediately earned the ire of human-rights groups.

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In the annual report on more than 190 countries, the State Department did say that China's "overall human-rights record remained poor" in 2007, citing media and Internet curbs and increased controls on religious freedom in Tibet and the Xinjiang region as well as "extrajudicial killings, torture and coerced confessions of prisoners, and the use of forced labor."

But the report dropped China from a list of 10 countries that it deemed the worst offenders: North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.

The Associated Press

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