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World shows support for Tibet with flags and protests

PARIS – US lawmakers moved toward calling on Beijing to end "repression" in Tibet, while protesters worldwide marked Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of the region’s failed uprising with flags and protests.

But in Taiwan, the Beijing-friendly government remained silent on the sensitive issue – although the opposition Democratic Progressive Party staged gatherings and vigils in support of Tibet.

Other governments were more forthcoming.

In Washington, the House of Representatives was to examine a resolution urging Beijing to "cease its repression of the Tibetan people, and to lift immediately the harsh policies imposed on Tibetans."

Close at hand, several hundred Tibetan exiles protested in front of the White House and the Chinese embassy, joined by a prominent Chinese dissident, Wei Jingsheng.

The moves came as China’s foreign minister headed to the US capital in hopes of easing a spike in tensions.

"How fitting it is that the foreign minister of China should be here in the United States this very week on an official visit," said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

But in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Ma Zhaoxu called on US lawmakers to halt the Tibet bill, arguing it "disregards the history and reality of Tibet".

Ma also described critical comments by Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as "lies" and insisted the Himalayan region had enjoyed profound democratic reforms under Chinese rule.

"I will not respond to the Dalai Lama’s lies," the spokesman said following his comments that the Chinese authorities had brought "hell on earth" to Tibetans.

Beijing’s ire did not appear to dampen international protests however, with European politicians joining American ones to signal their solidarity with Tibet.

In the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, the junior governing coalition Greens hung the Tibetan flag at the parliament building and the environment ministry despite warnings from diplomats ahead of a planned EU-China summit in Prague in May.

Tibetan flags also hung from town halls across the country.

"While we are presiding over the EU… civil and human rights including the freedom of speech, the press and movement and the right to a fair trial are still violated in Tibet," Greens chairman Martin Bursik, who heads the environment ministry, told Tuesday’s edition of the DNES daily.

Flags were also hoisted at 190 town halls in Austria and 120 town halls and official buildings in Switzerland – and by several hundred European lawmakers at a European Parliament session in Strasbourg, France.

In the Swiss capital, Bern, some 1,200 protesters marched peacefully to the Chinese embassy where the entrance was fenced up and guarded by the police.

Several dozen, mostly Tibetan protesters also demonstrated in front of the Chinese embassy in Vienna brandishing flags and a placard that read: "Tibet is dying and the world is just looking on."

Exiled Tibetans figured heavily as well among several hundred demonstrators who rallied near the Chinese embassy and European Union buildings in Brussels.

"Repression is again hitting Tibet, where China has deployed troops on the borders and in the principle towns, where monasteries are surrounded, where foreigners are persona non grata," said lawmaker Georges Dallemagne, who attended the protest with several other Belgian politicians.

Several hundred Tibetans and sympathisers also demonstrated in Paris, calling on China to end the "repression" there, while some 250 protesters marched to the Chinese embassy in The Hague.

In Australia, pro-Tibetan protesters clashed with police in Canberra, as a dozen of them tried to break through a security barrier at the Chinese embassy there.

Four were held for questioning, including one who threw his shoes at the building.

Meanwhile, school children and monks were among 150 Tibetan exiles protesting in Kathmandu, screaming: "Free Tibet," "Stop the killing in Tibet" and "Long live the Dalai Lama," as they scuffled with riot police inside a monastery.

AFP / Expatica