Student group has 'top-secret' plans for Tibet protest

Students for a Free Tibet, an activist group that supports Tibetan independence, is planning a protest somewhere in Asia to mark the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan rebellion. Plans are "top-secret," says the group.


A pro-Tibet organisation is preparing a "top-secret" protest in Asia against China.


The activist group Students for a Free Tibet, which has carried out a number of demonstrations in favour of Tibetan independence, is preparing to mark the 50th anniversary of the Chinese invasion of Lhasa on March 10.


On Friday, Lhadon Tethong, the group's executive director, left its New York headquarters for an unspecified destination somewhere in Asia, where she will launch the group's next initiative.


The destination, according to the French branch of the organisation, has been kept secret so that the operation cannot be thwarted by China.


Students for a Free Tibet, founded in 1994 in the United States by Tibetan students and activists, is known for its attention-getting protests.


One year before the Beijing Olympics, the group hung a giant banner on the Great Wall reading "One World, One Dream: Free Tibet 2008!" in English and Mandarin.


A few weeks before the games, Lhadon Tethong was thrown out of China after she published strong criticism of China's human-rights record on her blog.


Meanwhile, in France, French members of the group protested at the offices of Olympic sponsors, including Air China, Adidas and Omega.


The president of the French section of Students for a Free Tibet, Alexis Guilpart, said he knows very little about the plans for Tuesday's protests in Asia.


"We send each other encrypted mails to avoid leaks by national branches," he said.


Students for a Free Tibet's budget, which comes from donors, has in the past been around $150,000 a year, but it has recently tripled thanks to internet donations.


The group now has some 50,000 members in 35 countries. There are 6,000 volunteers in the United States, where the group is supported by a number of celebrities, including Richard Gere.


"We don't generate the same kind of enthusiasm in France," said Guilpart. "Our biggest donation was 100 euros. We have basically three sources of funds: membership fees, gifts, and the sale of T-shirts and stickers."

The French section is organising a march on Tuesday in Paris in cooperation with the Tibetan community in the capital. The route will end close to the Chinese embassy.


Authorisation of the demonstration from the prefecture does not allow the marchers to stop in front of the embassy. The end point will be 100 meters away, on Avenue George V near the Place de l'Alma.


"It will be difficult to plan anything spectacular," said Guilpart, "like climbing onto the roof of the embassy as we have done before."


The group has planned for another demonstration to be held in Marseille on March 14.

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