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China condemns Olympic torch disruptions

Latest update : 2008-04-09

China condemned disruptions of the Olympic torch relay in Europe. As the torch makes its way to San Francisco, three Tibet supporters scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to unfurl Tibetan flags. (Report: H.Morton, S. de Belzic)

Having arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday, the Olympic flame is set Wednesday to travel through a city that has become a battlefield. Exceptional security measures have been taken in anticipation of anti-Chinese protestors standing in the flame’s path.


Yet, once again, protesters are one step ahead. Three pro-Tibet activists have already scaled the landmark Golden Gate bridge, unfurling giant banners reading "Free Tibet" and "One World, One Dream" - the Olympic slogan. 


After disturbance on the London leg of its journey, the flame went on to an even more turbulent trek through Paris on Monday, caught between the pro-Tibet and human rights protestors.

Nicolas Sarkozy responded the day after the disturbances: “It was a sad sight for all.” He added that the question of France’s participation in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was dependent upon talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama. “It’s a function of re-engaging in this dialogue that I will determine the conditions of France’s participation.”
 

China condemned the disruption of the Olympic torch relay in London and Paris, saying the "despicable activities" of pro-Tibet activists had tarnished the Olympic spirit.


The Paris demonstrations were “blasphemy,” Beijing Olympics spokesman Sun Weide told reporters on Tuesday.

 
IOC to reconsider torch relays to host countries


After violent protests in London and Paris, a senior International Olympic Committee official said the Olympic torch relay should be confined to the host country at future games.


“I am a firm believer that we had the right template in the first place, that the torch should go from Olympia, Greece to the host country, and I would expect that the executive committee will review that”, IOC press commission chief Kevan Gosper told reporters on Tuesday. But Gosper said it would be wrong to alter or stop the ongoing 137,000-km Beijing relay. 

Mayhem in Paris and London


In Paris on Monday, the final European leg of the 2008 Olympic torch relay did not go according to script, with protests, arrests and scuffles between pro-Tibet demonstrators and security officials disrupting the flame’s passage through the French capital.


Altercations broke out shortly after the relay set off from the Eiffel Tower despite the high security presence, with “demonstrations every few meters” according to FRANCE 24’s Nicolas Germain, who followed the relay on Monday.

Monday’s mayhem was an embarrassment for French as well as Chinese officials organising the relay.


Three times in the course of its 28-kilometer route through the City of Lights, the Olympic flame was extinguished by French security officials.

 

While scuffles marred the Olympic torch relay in London on Sunday, violence in Paris went even further, with protesters succeeding in disrupting the itinerary of the relay. Indeed, after four hours of a chaotic journey, Chinese officials finally called off the relay, with the torch reaching the Charlety Stadium, on the southern edge of Paris, by bus.


A planned ceremony at the city’s grand City Hall was cancelled at the request of Chinese authorities organising the relay, according to the office of the Paris mayor. "The Chinese officials decided they would not stop here because they were upset by Parisian citizens expressing their support for human rights. It is their responsibility," Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoë told reporters.


Adding to the chaos, pro and anti-Chinese demonstrators faced off along the route. “Welcome to Beijing,” screamed a group of pro-China supporters in unison, waving Chinese national flags.


But when a pro-Tibet demonstrator handed the group a flag with the Olympic rings represented by handcuffs, it was summarily torn by the pro-China protester.


The flame is due to return to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days before it will be used to light the cauldron at the Olympic opening ceremony.


 
Chinese media mentions protests


China’s state-controlled CCTV mentioned disruptions in Paris and London, saying "Tibetan separatists" had tried to disrupt the relay. Chinese media reports spoke of "the warm welcome by Paris inhabitants, overseas Chinese and Chinese students."


“Surprisingly, the press has been quite open here about the protests in London and Paris, but the stories have obviously been spun in a way that plays down the significance of the demonstrations, portraying the protesters as radical Tibetans,” reports FRANCE 24’s Henry Morton from Beijing.


While reports of the Paris disruptions made the news across the world, there were some supporters of the Chinese state media censorship within the Chinese diaspora. “It's a good thing that there is censorship because if not, Chinese people would end up getting very violent, especially against westerners,” wrote ChinaWolf, a FRANCE 24 Observer who moved from China to Canada six years ago.

Date created : 2008-04-08

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