Olympic torch plans unaffected by Tibet riots: China

March 15th, 2008 - 11:21 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 15 (DPA) Organizers of the Beijing Olympics Saturday said plans were progressing “smoothly” for a torch relay leg in the Tibet Autonomous Region, despite escalating pro-independence protests by Tibetans and riots in the regional capital Friday. Preparations for the torch relay in the region, including a planned ascent of Mount Everest were “proceeding very smoothly and according to schedule”, Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing organizing committee (BOCOG), said in a statement.

Sun said the organizers opposed the linking of any political campaigns to the Olympics in August.

“BOCOG opposes any attempt to politicise the Olympic Games because that runs counter to the very spirit of the games,” he said.

“We have been receiving tremendous support from the international community for the Olympic Games,” Sun said.

International Olympic Committee vice-president Thomas Bach of Germany said Saturday that a boycott of the Aug 8-24 Games was not the right measure.

“A boycott would be the wrong way because it would cut off talks … history has shown that boycotts do not lead to results,” said Bach.

Bach said he hoped for “a peaceful solution (in Tibet) through dialogue” and added, “violence is always a setback”.

The statements of Sun and Bach came the day after violence in Lhasa left at least 10 people dead, according to Chinese state television. The Tibetan government-in-exile said unconfirmed reports spoke of 100 people killed in the pro-independence protests.

Chinese authorities on Saturday deployed troops and tanks in Lhasa, demanding that Tibetan rioters surrender to police or face more serious punishment for the violence.

Human rights groups have in recent months urged the IOC and governments to act tough on the issue towards China. The Tibet incidents could spark boycott calls.

IOC boss Jacques Rogge said in the past that a boycott of the Aug 8-24 Games would not solve any problems and that China has made improvements in its human rights record.

China is restricting trips by foreign tourists and climbers to Everest before the Olympic torch relay to the summit of the 8,844-metre peak in early May, sources said earlier this week.

China’s restrictions remain opaque but some tour operators said this week that all climbing activities were cancelled and that foreign tourists would not be allowed to travel to Everest Base Camp during the torch relay.

Tourists and climbers embarrassed China’s ruling Communist Party, which claims Tibet is an “inalienable” part of China, in two separate incidents close to 5,200-metre Everest Base Camp last year.

Video footage taken in June by Romanian mountaineers showed a Tibetan collapsing onto snow after apparently being shot by a Chinese soldier as a group of Tibetans climbed one of the high passes on China’s border with Nepal.

The video provided rare first-hand evidence to back claims by Tibetan activists of brutal repression in the region by Chinese troops and police.

In late April, China deported five US citizens who staged a brief protest to support Tibetan independence at Base Camp.

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