Torch relay still planned for Tibet, despite protests

March 19th, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 19 (DPA) The Olympic torch relay will pass through Tibetan areas of China despite widespread protests in the region that prompted the government to send in troops. “The situation in Tibet has essentially stabilized, the Olympic torch relay will proceed as scheduled,” Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee, told reporters.

“We know that these incidents (protests) are the last thing we want to see but we firmly believe that the Tibet Autonomous Region government is able to ensure stability and the smooth running of the torch relay,” Jiang said.

He said the organizers had devised “relevant contingency plans” for all possible problems during the torch relay, adding that International Olympic Committee rules allow diversion or cancellation of sections of the torch relay.

“Of course the security will be handled by the local police, governments and authorities,” he said.

Hollywood actor Richard Gere and a few Western politicians have suggested a possible boycott of the Olympics if China is found to have used excessive force to end the protests, which have erupted in many Tibetan areas.

The International Tibet Support Network, which represents some 150 Tibetan support groups, said it sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last weekend to demand that the IOC “immediately remove Tibet from the Beijing Olympic torch relay route”.

The IOC said in a statement Monday that it had no plans to change the route, which includes a planned ascent of the 8,844-metre summit of Mount Everest in Tibet in early May.

Shao Shiwei, deputy media director for the organizing committee, also said the Olympics were not the place for politics.

“To link the Olympics and politics is just not right,” Shao said.

“The Olympics is a great festival for athletes. The Olympics are to promote world peace and not a place for politics,” he said.

The humans rights group Reporters Without Borders called for governments to at least boycott the August 8 opening ceremonies, which about 100 heads of state and government were expected to attend.

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