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Germany

In Nepal Visit, Lawmakers Focus on Tibet

A visit to Nepal gave German lawmakers insights into the difficult situation for Tibetan monks, but did not lead to calls for an Olympic boycott.

Nepalese police arrest Tibetan monk protestors during a sit-in protest in front of United Nation Office in Kathmandu, Nepal, 17 March 2008.

Nepalese police arrested Tibetans protesting in front of the UN office there

A German lawmaker said he hoped the international protests against China's Olympic Torch relay would have an effect on Chinese policy, considering how badly it reflected on the Chinese regime.

“The propaganda show that the Chinese have planned (with their relay race) is turning into a race through a gauntlet,” Thilo Hoppe, the head of the Bundestag's Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development, said.

Protesters in Paris tried to extinguish the Olympic torch on Monday, April 7.

The Olympic torch run has met with protests in Paris...

Hoppe and other representatives from the parliamentary committee spent nine days in Nepal on a fact-finding mission ahead of a general election.

Because of the ongoing demonstrations of exiled Tibetans in Nepal, however, the lawmakers met with Tibetan exiles living in the Nepalese capital Katmandu, in particular the representative of the Dalai Lama .

Tibet's demand for cultural autonomy

Hoppe said the exiles were demanding more cultural autonomy for Tibet, rather than complete independence from China -- a stance he finds "moderate."

“I support a nonviolent movement for more autonomy within China,” Hoppe said.

He warned that China "should make use of the Dalai Lama's modest position... If some day he is no longer the representative of Tibet, it could be someone else who is more radical, and who could demand complete independence."

Thilo Hoppe, Green Party parliamentarian

Thilo Hoppe hopes the torch uproar will affect China

Hoppe also repeated claims of the Tibetan exiles, that monasteries in Tibet had been cut off from the outside world by Chinese military forces, and were suffering serious food and medicine shortages. This had even cost lives.

"No one can get any wares in or out -- the monasteries are surrounded," the lawmaker said. "This has been the cause of at least one, possibly two, deaths."

When the delegation tried to talk to the Nepali regime about the rights of the Tibetan exiles to hold demonstrations in Nepal, they were met with shrugs by a representative of the Nepali government.

"The Chinese ambassador to Nepal had demanded the government to forbid so-called anti-Chinese manifestations," Hoppe said. "When we pointed out that there are international accords granting this right, he simply said, 'That may be so, but China is big and Nepal is small'. "

Peaceful demonstrations?

In addition, the Tibetan exiles that met with the German delegation insisited that protests against Chinese rule had been overwhelmingly peaceful. But some violent protests had been staged by Chinese security forces, who had dressed up in monks' robes.

Those protests -- showing monks setting fire to automobiles and breaking windows -- were shown on Chinese state television, to show the Dalai Lama and his adherents in a violent light, they said.

The exiled Tibetans showed the parliamentarians photographs of Chinese soldiers carrying monks' robes in their luggage.

In San Francisco, crowds protested the Olympic torch and banners flew from the Golden Gate Bridge that said Free Tibet

... as well as San Francisco. Some are calling to stop the relay

Despite these problems, Hoppe said he thinks it is too early to declare a boycott against the Beijing Olympics; to do so at this point “would only make things worse for the Tibetans.”

“But it is equally wrong to categorically refuse a boycott,” he said.

It Is important for the Chinese to save their Olympic games, so politicians should think carefully about whether or not they want to take part in the opening ceremonies, Hoppe said.

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