Beijing: Olympic torch plans unaffected by Tibet riots

16th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Organizers of the Beijing Olympics on 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 on Friday.

16 March 2008

Beijing (dpa) - Organizers of the Beijing Olympics on 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 on 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 politicize the Olympic Games because that runs counter to the very spirit of the Olympic 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 on Saturday that a boycott of the August 8-24 Games was "the wrong way." But he also said in the direction of China: "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 August 8-24 Games would not solve any problems and that China has made improvements in human rights issues.

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.

It has also asked Nepalese authorities to suspend climbing on the south side of Everest during the expected May 1-May 10 window for the summit ascent with a special high-altitude, wind-proof Olympic torch.

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.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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