Anti-China protests in London surprise Olympic torch ceremony

April 6th, 2008 - 7:35 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 6 (IANS) A Chinese protection force and scores of British police ringed Olympic torch carriers on their ceremonial run through London Sunday but could not prevent a high-profile pro-Tibet demonstration from frequently disrupting the event. The police made at least 10 arrests after activists protesting China’s crackdown on pro-independence Buddhist monks in Tibet unsuccessfully tried to snuff out and snatch the Olympic flame at two changeover spots during the 31-mile procession.

China’s ambassador to Britain Fu Ying had to hastily change plans to carry the torch - she was bundled into a car and driven away from central London, but then appeared in the China Town area to take the torch.

The journey of the torch was besieged by protesters from the very start at Wembley Stadium where it was lit on an unseasonally cold and snowy day.

As the torch was carried to a bus an activist tried to snatch it.

Later in central London, one person was wrestled down to the ground as he tried to snatch the torch from children’s television programme presenter Konnie Huq, who later said she and many other athletes sympathised with the protesters but were taking part in the ceremony because they believed in the Olympics values.

“My taking part does not condone in any way what China is doing. A lot of the athletes feel the same way,” Konnie said.

“It’s just unfortunate that China has such a terrible track record when it comes to human rights. I understand the cause completely but this is the platform where change can occur. All eyes will be on the Olympics,” she said.

At another point, the police arrested two activists who tried to snuff out the flame with a fire extinguisher.

Huge maroon-and-orange Tibetan flags lined the route and activists shouted out ‘Free Tibet’ to the 80 men and women charged with serially carrying the flame.

Some 2,000 British police were deployed to protect the torch from disrupters - in addition to a dozen Chinese men in blue track suits, part of a 33-day, round-the-clock torch protection force, pressed by the Chinese government.

The police were also deployed to keep the peace in central London between two large groups of pro-Tibetan and pro-Chinese protesters.

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