Organisers defend sole Miss Tibet

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1 October 2005

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2002 swimsuit competition

Miss Tibet drew four contestants in 2002

Organisers have stoutly defended the Miss Tibet contest even though all the contestants bar one have pulled out, creating a walkover for the winner.

Organiser Lobsang Wangyal said the name of the "lone brave contestant" would be kept secret until the 8 October gala.

The contest is set to take place in the Indian Himalayan resort of Dharamsala, which houses exiled Tibetan leaders.

The four-year-old contest has struggled to find its feet amid staunch opposition from conservative Buddhists.

The BBC's Baldev Chauhan in Dharamsala says seven young women pulled out at the last moment.

This is the second time in the contest's brief history that a walkover has been awarded.

But Mr Wangyal told the BBC this was not the end of the road for the pageant.

"Absolutely not, a time will come soon when the conservative Tibetan society will break out of its traditional shackles and accept such shows with open arms," he said.

"The girls also have to give a lecture on Tibetan culture, history and current affairs. It is a Tibet beauty pageant, not aping Western culture."

The winner will get a tiara and a cheque for 100,000 rupees ($2,200).

Conservative Tibetan Buddhist society and the Tibetan government in exile are both opposed to the beauty contest.

A spokesman for the exiled leaders, Thupten Samphel, said: "Exhibiting of the female body in this manner is against Tibetan Buddhism and culture."

Our correspondent says commentators suspect the lone woman's name is not being disclosed by the organisers as pressure may be exerted on her to also opt out of the contest.

Tens of thousands of Tibetans, including spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have taken refuge in India since a failed uprising against China in 1959.

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