WASHINGTON — Scores of chanting Tibetans and silently meditating Falungong practitioners staged a peaceful protest here Monday, using a gathering of world leaders at a nuclear security summit as a soapbox to protest against China.
More than 100 Tibetans chanted angry slogans in a square and a park on the edge of Washington's Chinatown, both a stone's throw from the Washington Convention Center where President Barack Obama is hosting the leaders from 46 nations, including China's President Hu Jintao.
"Hu Jintao, free Tibet! Wake up, wake up, USA! Wake up, wake up, Obama!" shouted the Tibetans, many waving the yellow, red, blue and white flag of the remote Himalayan region invaded by Chinese troops in 1950.
Opposite the protesters, in a small traffic island sandwiched between two downtown streets, around a dozen Asian men carrying Chinese and American flags had gathered to welcome Hu.
"They have the right to do what they're doing, and we have the right to do what we're doing," one of the pro-Beijing group, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
As the Tibetans chanted, Falungong practitioners went through the motions of their meditative art, which they say has 100 million followers in China who have been relentlessly persecuted by the communist regime.
"A lot of people, especially in the United States and Europe, only engage China economically and turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses," said Wenyi Wang.
Other protesters tried to tie their cause to the summit, the main focus of which is to try to rid the planet of loose nuclear materiel and keep it out of the hands of extremists.
"We want to ask Obama to pressure Hu to free Tibet because if the goal of this nuclear summit is to find global security, then having Tibet as an independent nation acting as a buffer zone between two nuclear nations would be the solution," said Tenzin Dolkar, a member of Students for a Free Tibet.
A Kazakh activist approached the Tibetan protesters to ask if they would hold up signs denouncing Kazakhstan's long-time authoritarian president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is being held up as an example in Washington for ceding the former Soviet republic's nuclear arsenal.
The Tibetans refused, preferring to fight their own fight. As yet another motorcade passed, the protesters' voices strained as they shouted "USA support Tibet", and "Hu Jintao, go back -- stop lying to the world."
But their voices were drowned out by the blaring sirens of the motorcades' police escorts.
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