Clashes in Seoul during Olympic torch relay (Lead)

April 27th, 2008 - 9:11 pm ICT by admin  

Seoul, April 27 (DPA) The Olympic torch relay concluded in the South Korean capital Sunday marked by sporadic clashes between pro- and anti-China demonstrators and a self-immolation attempt. The 17th stage of the torch’s journey around the world took place under heavy security with the torch arriving at the centre of the 1988 Olympic Village Sunday evening after a 24-km relay through the city.

Thousands of Chinese filled Seoul’s streets with red flags to show their support for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, while in the Olympic Village, members of refugee and human rights groups protested China’s treatment of North Korean refugees and its policies on Tibet.

Shortly after the torch set off from the Olympic Park in the south of the city Sunday afternoon, witnesses reported clashes between Chinese and some 50 people taking part in a protest against the deportation of North Korean refugees from China.

Witnesses said stones and other objects were thrown. The clashes were broken up by police. Television pictures showed further wrangles between the groups as the torch proceeded through the city.

Despite the incidents the torch relay was not interrupted during the five-hour run. The 69 torch bearers were surrounded by dozens of police in buses and on motorbikes and an attempt by a protestor to grab the torch was quickly foiled. Around 8,000 police were deployed.

In other developments a man attempted to set himself on fire on the fringes of the torch relay to protest against the deportations of North Korean refugees from China, the Yonhap news agency reported Sunday.

The middle-aged man covered himself with a flammable liquid in the capital Seoul, witnesses said. Before he could set himself on fire he was taken away by police. The man claimed to have fled North Korea several years ago.

Estimates place the number of North Korean refugees in China at 300,000. Large numbers of people flee communist North Korea every year to escape hunger and persecution. Xinhua reported: An official with the Mt Everest Olympic torch relay said Sunday in Tingri county of Tibet’s Xigaze that the Beijing Olympic flame has reached the base camp of M Everest for a relay to the world’s highest peak.

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