Chinese guards to use bodies’ to protect Olympic torch during Oz relay: Envoy

April 22nd, 2008 - 7:19 pm ICT by admin  

Melbourne, Apr.22 (ANI): Chinese guards will “use their bodies” to protect the Olympic flame from protesters in Canberra, China’s Ambassador to Australia, Zhang Junsai, said today.
“Their role is to make sure that the flame will not go out. If the flame was attacked, I believe they would use their bodies,” quoted Junsai as telling the Nine Network.
As late as last night, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reaffirmed his position that the Chinese torch escorts - dubbed “thugs” by one London Olympic official - would play no role in security.
“The advice that I have got from the Australian Federal Police is that the physical security of the Olympic torch will be provided by Australian security officials only,” Rudd told ABC Television.
He said the representatives of the Beijing Olympic Committee would help with the physical lighting and relighting of the torch or the flame.
Tonight a spokesman reaffirmed Mr Rudd’s position.
“I refer you to the prime minister’s earlier comments, the Australian Federal Police will provide all physical security for the Olympic torch,” the spokesman said.
“All security of the torch, the torch bearers and the relay event will be provided exclusively by Australian security officials.”
The torch is due to arrive in Canberra, at 8:10 a.m. (AEST) tomorrow.
It will arrive from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, where the torch relay was today again marred by protests over China’s human rights record.
The torch will be flown into a Royal Australian Air Force base on the outskirts of Canberra to be met by ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates.
Details of where it will be kept ahead of Thursday’s tour of Canberra were not made available by organisers.
Barricades have been set up along the Canberra route in a bid to keep both pro- and anti-China protesters at bay.
More than half of the city’s 700-plus strong police force will be on duty.
The high level security operation follows protests about China’s human rights record in Tibet that have dogged the torch relay in Europe and North America, and which threaten to re-emerge in Canberra.
One Australian flame runner today pulled out of the event because of her concerns about China’s actions.
President of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Lin Hatfield Dodds said her decision to withdraw was difficult.
“I was delighted to accept the invitation to run with the torch much earlier this year and I was very grieved to see violence come into play,” Ms Hatfield Dodds told ABC Radio.
“And because of that, I’ve felt that the meaning of the running in the torch relay has really shifted.
“For a lot of people it still carries the meaning of harmony but for an increasing number of the global community watching it’s carrying a lot of meaning around human rights.”
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Ms Hatfield Dodds’ decision was “a very good example of peacefully making a point”.
Smith said he hoped everyone who attended the event would follow that example.
Tonight the torch is Indonesia with the Jakarta leg of the relay beginning behind closed doors at the national stadium following pro-Tibetan independence protests earlier in the day.
Police swooped on about 100 activists protesting against Chinese rule in Tibet outside the stadium, detaining at least nine, including a Dutch man. (ANI)

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