Anti-China street protests back calls for Olympic boycott
Street protests condemning China's crackdown in Tibet spread around world capitals, amid growing calls for an official boycott of the Olympic Games
PARIS, March 19, 2008 - Street protests condemning China's crackdown in Tibet spread around world capitals Tuesday, amid growing calls for an official boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.
Tibet's exiled leaders say about 100 people have been killed in a crackdown
on anti-Chinese protests and have called for an international investigation.
China has denied wrongdoing and blamed Tibetans for the unrest.
Rights groups urged foreign governments to respond by keeping their
officials away from the Beijing Olympics -- a proposal that gained some
traction with European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering.
"One has to say to the Chinese: if the repression continues like this it
will cause political leaders who plan to attend the opening of the Olympic
Games, as I plan to, to consider whether such a trip is a responsible move,"
he told German public radio Tuesday.
"All options should be kept open," he added.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested the European Union may consider a boycott of the opening ceremony when the bloc's foreign ministers meet next week in Slovenia.
"Let us consider it," Kouchner said, arguing that staying away from the
opening ceremony would be "less negative than a general boycott of the games,"
which France and other European nations have ruled out.
In Rome, the Italian government called on the European Union to send a
mission to Beijing immediately to discuss the crisis.
The United Nations has proved reluctant to get involved, given China's
considerable influence at the world body.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on the Chinese authorities to "avoid
further confrontation and violence" in his first public comments since the
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Beijing to open talks with
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the European Union said
it was troubled by events there. But Russia said the Tibet crisis was an
"internal matter" for China.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday at the seat of the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
The demonstrators, many holding banners and Tibetan flags, arrived with a
police escort. The procession was led by monks in traditional robes.
"Stop Killing in Tibet," read one banner, while another said: "Mr Rogge,
your silence kills Tibetans" -- a plea to IOC chief Jacques Rogge.
One organiser put the number of demonstrators at around 500, while another
said it was closer to 1,000.
While the Lausanne demonstration was relatively peaceful, in Brussels,
Belgian police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of Tibetan protesters who hurled projectiles at the Chinese mission to the European Union.
Meanwhile, demonstrators in Australia burned Chinese flags and chanted
"Free Tibet" as they protested outside Beijing's consulate.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called the Tibet violence
"disturbing" and said Canberra had expressed its views to China on the
In New York, 21 Tibetan activists were arrested outside the United Nations
headquarters Monday on a fourth successive day of protests.
New York-based Human Rights Watch echoed calls for world leaders to
consider staying away from the Olympics, while stopping short of a
"As much as leaders might like to applaud their athletes and enjoy the
spirit of the Games, they should not through their presence bless Chinese
repression," Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth told a news conference in Tokyo.
Authorities in Washington tightened security around the Chinese embassy
after its front wall was splashed with red paint and its windows smashed.
In Nepal, at least 59 Tibetan exiles were detained after police used sticks
and tear gas to break up protests outside a UN complex.
The Tibetans said they wanted to pressure the United Nations to investigate
Beijing's crackdown on the fiercest uprising against Chinese rule of the
Himalayan region in nearly two decades.
In Germany, staff were forced to barricade themselves inside the Chinese
consulate in Munich on Monday as demonstrators set fire to a Chinese flag
outside and tried to storm the building.
China refuses to hold negotiations with the Dalai Lama, who said Tuesday he
would resign as Tibet's spiritual leader if the unrest in his homeland