Dharamsala, August 7 : Maroon robed Buddhist monks led thousands of Tibetan exiles on Thursday as they marched through the streets of Dharamsala to mourn the deaths of fellow countrymen in Lhasa earlier this year.
Many of the Tibetan exiles wore black clothes and tied black bandanas to mourn what they said were brutal killings of protesters in Tibet in March.
As the Olympics approach, Tibetans are trying to reinvigorate their freedom movement and protest against what they see as China's illegal occupation of their homeland.
Tenzing Norbu, one of the Buddhist monks living in exile in Dharamsala, home of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, said Olympic games in Beijing were a great opportunity for the Chinese to hear the voice of the Tibetans and also for the Tibetans to draw the world's attention to their cause.
"We want to protest against the Chinese government and on Friday the Olympic games are starting and we want to make all the people to be alert of Chinese government and to warn the Chinese government to free Tibet," Tenzing Norbu said.
China has controlled Tibet since People's Liberation Army troops marched into the region in 1950 and Beijing considers Tibet as an integral part of its territory.
Critics accuse China of repressing Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
China says it has spent billions of dollars developing the impoverished Himalayan region, and raised its living standards.
Many foreigners visiting Dharamsala, where Dalai Lama has been living for past four decades, also participated in the march to show their support for the Tibetan cause.
Cameron Cairns, an Australian tourist who has been to Tibet, said he supported their cause because he had seen what their brothers were going through in their homeland.
"I came here today to support the Tibetan people's right for independence. I think over the next couple of weeks, the Olympics will possibly make a vehicle to gain momentum in their struggle and I hope that becomes a cause and open it to the rest of the people. I have been to Tibet and you see two classes of citizens there and unfortunately Tibetans are a second class of citizens but when you hear all the stories around Dharamsala and Mcleodganj and after being to Tibet you realise that these stories are not being fabricated -- they are real," Cairns said.
The Beijing Games torch relay was dogged by protests over Chinese rule in Tibet when it made its way through Paris, London and other cities earlier this year.
Sonam, one of the Tibetan exiles said it was a mourning march.
"We are mourning the Tibetans killed in Tibet and we are shouting for the support of all people of the world and we are shouting for our freedom in Tibet," Sonam said.
China has accused followers of the Dalai Lama of stirring riots and protests in Tibetan regions in March in a bid to upstage Olympic preparations. The Dalai Lama has denied the claim and said he does not oppose the Games.
But groups campaigning for an independent Tibet have said the Beijing Olympics should be an opportunity to voice criticism of Chinese policy.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.