- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 18, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - The Dalai Lama’s nephew has finished a 900-mile walk across America to protest what he calls Chinese suppression of Tibetans.

After the four-week trek from Indiana to New York, Jigme Norbu’s feet were full of painful blisters and were missing nails and the feeling in one toe.

“But I feel energized, because the cause itself energizes me,” Norbu said Saturday, a day after emerging from New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Capping his “Walk for Tibet,” Norbu led a noon rally Saturday in front of the Chinese consulate on Manhattan’s West Side.

He started his walk in Indianapolis on March 10, marking the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule that resulted in the exile of the Dalai Lama over the Himalayas into India.

Step by step, Norbu covered about 30 miles a day on roads and small highways, passing through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. In the big cities, he led rallies, speaking about Tibetans’ struggles.

A year ago, an anti-Chinese riot in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, left at least 22 people dead, igniting protests in surrounding provinces that ended with Beijing flooding the region with troops. Earlier this month, a Chinese court handed down death sentences to two Tibetans accused of starting deadly fires in last year’s anti-government riots.

“When I walked, I thought of my people _ how they’re suffering, what they’ve been through,” said Norbu, a 43-year-old New York native who works in real estate in Bloomington, Ind.

A van with supplies followed, driven by a former member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama is based. Carrying their own sleeping bags, the two stayed at the homes of people they met along the way, in churches, Buddhist monasteries and, occasionally, motels that offered discounts or free lodging.

“Our supporters were Americans, people who live in communities that gave me water, food, housing, money,” said Norbu, who went through three pairs of shoes before arriving in New York.

A telephone message seeking comment from the Chinese consulate Saturday on Norbu’s walk and rally wasn’t immediately returned.

China claims Tibet as part of its territory, but many Tibetans say Chinese rule deprives them of religious freedom. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan autonomy and fomenting anti-Chinese protests.

Norbu is the son of the Dalai Lama’s late brother, Taktser Rinpoche, a high lama who was abbot of a monastery when the Chinese invaded and became, in effect, a prisoner of their army. The brothers fled into exile following the 1959 uprising.

Rinpoche, who died in September at 86, was a professor of Tibetan studies at Indiana University in Bloomington while serving as the Dalai Lama’s U.S. representative.

His birth name was Thupten Jigme Norbu, and, at 3, he was recognized as the reincarnation of Taktser Rinpoche. (The first name means “roaring tiger,” taken from his and the Dalai Lama’s native village, and Rinpoche means “precious one,” a title given to spiritual masters.)

The brothers fought for Tibetan rights, but Rinpoche believed in guerrilla war against China, while the Dalai Lama has been so opposed to violence that he threatened to give up his title if bloody protests didn’t stop.

The walk was a son’s tribute to a father who also had walked all over the United States starting in the 1990s “for all the Tibetans who suffered and died,” Norbu said.

“He was a big inspiration,” the son said. “He fought almost his whole life.”


On the Net:

Walk for Tibet blog: https://www.WalkForTibet2009.com

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