Protests dog Olympic torch from Paris to San Francisco

Protests dog Olympic torch from Paris to San Francisco

04-07-2008, 15h50

French former tennis player (C) Arnaud Di Pasquale reacts as he carries an extinguished Beijing Olympics flame in Paris on his way to place the torch in a bus for safety amid pro-Tibet protests.

The Beijing Olympics flame headed Tuesday for San Francisco and further pro-Tibet protests after two days of chaos in Europe forced officials to douse the torch and cut short the Paris leg of the relay.

Three demonstrators scaled the US city's landmark Golden Gate Bridge as the protests against China mounted ahead of the torch's arrival.

They unfurled a giant banner reading "One World, One Dream" and "Free Tibet 08," and at least one could be seen carrying a Tibetan flag.

Earlier, constant disruption by hundreds of campaigners protesting against China's human rights record forced officials in Paris to douse the torch several times before halting the planned procession outside parliament, where some deputies hung a Tibetan flag on a railing.

The torch was taken by bus to its final destination, a stadium in the south of the city, where clashes promptly broke out between pro-Tibet activists and China supporters, forcing police to intervene.

It finally left Paris shortly after 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) for San Francisco.

Protesters had already disrupted Sunday's London leg of the torch relay, a 21-country, round-the-world trip meant to highlight the Olympic spirit before the August Games in the Chinese capital.

China's foreign ministry slammed the demonstrations.

"We express our strong condemnation (of) the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by 'Tibetan independence' separatist forces regardless of the Olympic spirit and the law of Britain and France," ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was quoted as saying in state media.

"Their despicable activities tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit and challenge all the people loving the Olympic Games around the world," Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang as saying.

The report said "a handful of Tibetan separatists" in Paris and London had tried to disrupt the torch relay, adding the flame had been warmly welcomed in both cities.

There had been scuffles from the start in Paris as the torch set off from the Eiffel Tower, with torchbearers struggling through the capital despite a phalanx of motorcycle outriders, jogging firemen, and police on rollerblades.

Hundreds of pro-Tibetans carried banners with messages such as "Tiananmen 1989 - Lhasa 2008."

Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people have been killed in unrest that began on March 10 against Chinese rule in the Himalayan region.

China insists its security forces killed no one while trying to quell the protests. It says Tibetan "rioters" killed 20 people.

Each time the torch was extinguished, it had to be relit from the "eternal flame" which was surrounded by heavy security.

A high-profile ceremony planned at city hall was called off after officials draped a Tibetan flag from the building. At least eight people were arrested.

The incidents in Paris came after Sunday's rowdy protests in London, where police said more than 1,000 protesters tried to disrupt the proceedings and 37 were arrested.

In San Francisco, local media reported four arrests by California Highway Patrol, while the protestors who had climbed onto the Golden Gate Bridge later descended and were arrested.

Police in the Californian city say that an unprecedented security blanket will be in place Wednesday as they attempt to avoid a repeat of the chaos in Europe.

"As events have unfolded around the world we have been monitoring them consistently," San Francisco Police Sergeant Neville Gittens told AFP.

"We are looking at what occurred in London and Paris and are adjusting our plans accordingly."

Democratic White House candidate Hillary Clinton upped the ante with a call for President George W. Bush to boycott the Olympics opening ceremony.

Clinton's call for a US boycott of the Olympic opening came five days after the White House rejected similar moves in Congress.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto reiterated Bush's objections to a boycott and said it expected US athletes to take part.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge had earlier Monday called on China to peacefully end unrest in Tibet ahead of the Games.

Protests in Paris, San Francisco overshadow Olympic torch

Three Demonstrators scaled the Golden Gate Bridge unfurling two banners as a tourist bus passes underneath in San Francisco, California, USA, 07 April 2008. The three climbers are members of Students for a Free Tibet and their action comes just two days before the Olympic torch is to make its San Francisco stop -- the only stop in North America -- en route to Beijing, where the Summer Olympics will be held in August. The banner read:

Three Demonstrators scaled the Golden Gate Bridge unfurling two banners as a tourist bus passes underneath in San Francisco, California, USA, 07 April 2008. The three climbers are members of Students for a Free Tibet and their action comes just two days before the Olympic torch is to make its San Francisco stop -- the only stop in North America -- en route to Beijing, where the Summer Olympics will be held in August. The banner read: "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 08," EPA/MONICA M. DAVEY

Apr 7, 2008, 22:54 GMT

Protests from Paris to San Francisco continue to overshadow the traditional world relay of the Olympic torch.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a US senator and former first lady, became the most prominent US politician to call for President George W Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Games in August, citing China's crackdown in Tibet and other human-rights abuses.

Eighteen people were arrested in mass protests in Paris, where French officials were forced to extinguish the torch, cut short the public relay and transport the torch inside a bus for part of the journey through France, instead of letting an athlete carry the flame in the traditional fashion.

Police said that the torch was extinguished 'for technical reasons' that were not related to the protests, but French media reported that the action was taken to protect the flame from the human-rights demonstrators lining the planned 28-kilometre route.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman said that the group would not comment on the incidents.

'The torch is the responsibility of ... the local Olympic committee,' he said, adding that the Olympic flame 'never dies.'

The first incident occurred about one hour after former world 400- metre-hurdles champion Stephane Diagana left the first level of the Eiffel Tower on the first leg of the torch's scheduled itinerary through the French capital.

After the demonstrations delayed the procession by at least two hours, the torch made the final leg of the trip by bus, shortening the route by at least one-fourth.

A number of scheduled ceremonies including one foreseen for the Chinese embassy were cancelled to avoid further incidents. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said that Chinese officials had cancelled a scheduled ceremony at City Hall.

Dozens of French lawmakers joined the anti-China protest, standing behind a Tibetan flag and a banner reading 'Respect Human Rights in China,' as the torch passed the seat of the National Assembly in central Paris, BFM television reported.

The disruptions occurred despite a heavy police presence following the torch's tumultuous passage Sunday through London, where at least 36 people were arrested.

Some 3,000 police officers were stationed on the ground, in the air and even on the Seine River, while the torch was accompanied by a security perimeter of some 400 police officers on foot, horseback, motorcycle and roller blades as well as in cars.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders hung a large protest banner on the Eiffel Tower, and three of its members chained themselves to the monument.

Paris is the final European stop for the torch, which will then be flown to the western hemisphere for appearances Wednesday in San Francisco and Friday in Buenos Aires.

In the United States, police were bracing for numerous protests as the atmosphere worsened.

'At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government,' said Clinton, who is locked in a tight race with fellow Senator Barack Obama for the opposition Democratic presidential nomination.

Her call came as three protestors climbed San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge and unfurled a Tibetan flag and banners proclaiming 'One World One Dream' and 'Free Tibet.'

'We are part of the global independent movement for Tibet, and we are calling the world's attention to what's happening in Tibet right now,' protestor Laurel Sutherlin told a local TV station as he dangled more than 50 meters above the bridge.

'China is trying to take this Olympic torch around the world and use it as an opportunity to become a global player. We are looking to unmask this propaganda and let the world know there's brutal oppression happening in Tibet.'

Police had arrested four people on the bridge who appeared to be the support team for the cable climbers and took the three climbers into custody when they descended after two hours aloft.

Clinton faulted the Chinese for the violent clashes in Tibet and for 'the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur.' She said that the Bush administration had been 'wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China.'

Bush has said he intends to participate in the opening ceremonies but will continue to press China on its human-rights record and to advocate open dialogue between Beijing and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

'We have a great deal of concern about human rights in China, ... and we have never been afraid to express those views either directly by the president or the president's senior advisers when they travel to China, and publicly,' said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman.

San Francisco police were readying for major protests along the only US stop for the Olympic torch relay. The route along the waterfront is designed to minimize potential disruptions by numerous protest groups.

The governing San Francisco Board of Supervisors called on the city to greet the Olympic torch with 'alarm and protes

Wen blames Tibet unrest on Dalai Lama

By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing and Amy Yee in Dharamsala

Published: 05:46 | Last updated: 17:11

Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, on Tuesday blamed the Dalai Lama for the worst unrest in Tibet in nearly two decades, and characterised the protests as a plot to sabotage the Olympic Games in Beijing this year.

The incident “has all the more revealed that the assertions by the Dalai clique that they desire peaceful negotiation are nothing but lies”, Mr Wen said in his annual press conference on Tuesday. “Their hypocritical lies cannot cover the iron-clad facts.”

The Dalai Lama, the Himalayan region’s exiled spiritual leader, denied any involvement in the riots, urging Tibetans to exercise restraint

Video: Tibet clashes


A Tibetan official gives a government account of the unrest

“If things become out of control I will resign,” the Dalai Lama said on Tuesday at a press conference in Dharamsala, the northern Indian town that is home to Tibet’s government-in-exile. “You investigate who is a liar... I want to ask [Wen], please show proof,” said the Dalai Lama. He invited the Chinese premier to investigate his files and “all records of my speech”.

The Dalai Lama has also repeatedly said he does not support a boycott of the Olympic Games in August.

The protests started in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, as peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks last Monday, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. They turned into widespread ­violence on Friday following reports of a Chinese crackdown.

Mr Wen said government and security officials had exercised “extreme restraint” in dealing with protesters, despite claims from Tibetan groups that scores and possibly hundreds of Tibetans had been killed and security forces had opened fire on crowds.

By Tuesday, Beijing’s official death toll was 16, including 13 “innocent civilians” killed by protesters.

In response to a question from the Financial Times, Mr Wen ruled out direct talks with the Dalai Lama unless he renounced all Tibetan independence activities and recognised Tibet and Taiwan as inalienable parts of China.

The Dalai Lama has consistently said his goal is true autonomy under Chinese rule for the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region, and he does not support full Tibetan independence, which many protesters have been calling for in recent days.

Mr Wen said he appreciated the steps taken by India to limit the independence activities of the “Dalai clique” and hoped the country would stick to agreements with China concerning anti-Chinese demonstrations on Indian soil.

In Lhasa on Tuesday, the situation was mostly calm and residents were returning to work after days of curfew, according to residents.

Chinese troops and security officers were out in force across other ethnically Tibetan parts of the country and a curfew had been imposed in some parts of the restive, mostly Muslim, province of Xinjiang, according to the International Campaign for Tibet.

In Nepal, police arrested about 50 protesters who were calling for a UN investigation into the crackdown, according to agency reports.

In Beijing on Tuesday, security in Tiananmen Square was unusually tight and many buses had uniformed police on board.

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