Tibetans protest Beijing Olympics in N.Y.

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NEW YORK -- Tibetans shouting "Boycott the Beijing Olympics" marched Monday from City Hall to the United Nations here to protest the games in China's capital in August.

"Free Tibet!" shouted men, women and crimson-robed monks carrying red, blue and gold Tibetan flags, the Stars and Stripes and banners depicting the Olympic rings dripping blood.

China's communist government invaded Tibet in 1950 and in 2001 won the rights to host the 2008 Summer Games with promises to the International Olympics Committee to improve human rights.

The Beijing Olympics will be broadcast in the U.S. by NBC, headquartered at Rockefeller Center, a destination for future marches, organizer Tsering Palden said.

"Our permit doesn't cover that place today, but we will be marching every day during the games," said Tsering, a computer programmer.

NBC Olympics spokesmen in New York did not return phone calls or e-mails asking for comment.

"The whole point of giving the Olympics to Beijing was that China would have to become more like the international community, not that the sponsors would become more like the Chinese government," said Minky Worden, media director of Human Rights Watch and the author of a forthcoming book about China and the Olympics. Worden said HRW had met with Coca-Cola and other Olympic sponsors but that NBC and its parent company General Electric had not accepted invitations to talk.

The march, organized by the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey, coincided with others in India and Tibet itself, the Associated Press and Radio Free Asia reported. The marches mark the 49th anniversary of an uprising of 30,000 Tibetans in Lhasa against China's formal annexation of the territory in 1959.

"Beijing is taking the Olympic torch up Mount Everest, and one of the Olympic mascots is the Tibetan antelope. China has no right to use these Tibetan symbols to promote itself," Tsering said.

NBC will carry a record 3,600 hours of Olympic events live between the opening ceremony Aug. 8 and the closing Aug. 24 -- more than 20 times the 171 hours from Atlanta in 1996.

Bystander Ricky Ramirez, a mover from Queens, called the march "ridiculous," and said he looks forward to watching Olympic track and field. Another bystander said, "We can't boycott. We've got the world's best basketball team."

The Beijing Olympics are expected to reach their largest television audience and will deliver huge visibility for corporate sponsors such as Johnson & Johnson and athletes like Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, an NBA star who will play for China's national team.

Tsering and others taking the day off work to protest said they do not agree with the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader, who has called for the games to go on.

"He is not at our level, and sometimes our positions come into conflict," Tsering said. "American athletes are from a democracy and should know the difference. If they go to Beijing and win, they should reject their medals to show their discomfort with what's happening in Tibet."

Tsering lauded the courage of Icelandic rocker Bjork, who last week shouted "Tibet" repeatedly after singing her song "Declare Independence" at a concert in Shanghai.

"We want to bring the message to the international table, but she showed the courage to take it right to the heart of China," Tsering said.
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