Thirty-nine years ago, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed while protesting Chinese occupation of their homeland.

Thousands of others were forced into exile - becoming refugees in India, the United States and other lands.Still, their struggle continues.

"To this day, we're hoping for a negotiated settlement with China," said Ngawang Chophell, a Tibetan now living in Utah.

Chophell was joined Tuesday by about 30 other flag-bearing Utah Tibetans on the State Capitol steps to observe the 39th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day. The group began with a prayer ceremony, sang the Tibetan National Uprising Day Song and national anthem, the staged a "peace march" to the Federal Building.

Several in the group waved protest signs with messages of "Stop Genocide in Tibet" and "China Has Killed 12 million Tibetans."

Included in Tuesday's observance was a reading of an anniversary statement by the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Dialogue between the Chinese government and Tibetans is the first step to a solution, he said.

"I am not seeking independence . . . What I am seeking is for the Tibetan people to be given the opportunity to have genuine self-rule in order to preserve their civilization and for the unique Tibetan culture, religion, language and way of life to grow and thrive," the Dalai Lama said.

Chophell said he is encouraged that Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the Tibetan plight.

The United States has recognized Tibet as an occupied country and the American people are providing emergency support for Tibetans, Chophell added.

Recently, the U.S. government set an international precedent by appointing a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Affairs to facilitate talks between Tibetans and the Chinese government.