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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China's Olympic torch defender speaks out

April 20, 2008

SHANGHAI, China April 18, 2008 (AP) — She's been portrayed as the
"smiling angel in a wheelchair," just the hero that China needed to
rally national pride in the face of the embarrassment suffered over
Olympic torch relay protests.

Jin Jing, a disabled, little-known fencing athlete, is now a household
name here, riding a wave of sympathy and state media publicity after
clinging stubbornly to the torch while a Tibet supporter tried to
wrestle it away during the Olympic torch relay in Paris on April 7.

Ten days later, Jin seems overwhelmed by the publicity and said she
still doesn't understand why protesters wanted to take the torch. Until
the incident in Paris, she said she had never heard that some Tibetans
want independence from China.

"I don't pay attention to politics," she said Thursday in her first
meeting with foreign reporters, a publicity agent from torch relay
sponsor Lenovo Group by her side and whispering to her at least once
about the Tibet-related questions.

Jin's professed innocence is part of her appeal to Chinese, who have
celebrated her ever since photos of her Paris struggle made the rounds

Disruptions of the torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco
shocked many Chinese, dimming a hoped-for moment of Olympic glory and
inciting a fierce, besieged nationalism.

China has sought to use the Aug. 8-24 Olympics as a showcase to
demonstrate it is an open, modern country. Protesters say China doesn't
deserve to host the Olympics because of its human rights record, its
harsh rule in Tibet, and its friendly ties with Sudan.

Jin is now known as a defender of China's dignity, embodying a national
pride hurt by the protests that overwhelmed the torch relay and the
criticisms of China's crackdown in Tibet. While the first images of Jin
on the Internet seemed to come from onlookers in Paris, state media soon
began telling and retelling her story.

She joins a list of heroes promoted by the communist government's
propaganda authorities, often at times of tension with the outside
world. In 2001, after a U.S. surveillance plane collided with a Chinese
jet fighter off southern China, the Chinese pilot who died in the crash
became a national hero. The Pentagon said the pilot's reckless flying
caused the crash.

While Jin is being praised, angrier Chinese have taken to seeking
revenge. Users of the Internet, where a virulent nationalism thrives,
have targeted those perceived as enemies with "human flesh search
engines" — online campaigns that incite acts that are committed off-line.

This week, a Chinese student at Duke University was singled out for
trying to negotiate peace between pro-Tibet and pro-China protesters on
her campus.

Her photograph was taken at the face-off, the day the torch relay passed
through San Francisco, and soon posted on a Web forum for Chinese
students. The forum termed her a "traitor to your country" and gave her
name, Chinese identification number and home address in China.

A photo posted online this week showed what was said to be a bucket of
feces dumped on her parents' doorstep in the port city of Qingdao.

The "human flesh search engine" also went after the man who tried to
take the torch, mistakenly accusing a 44-year-old Tibetan living in Utah.

With his name, address, phone number and even a map of his neighborhood
posted on some Chinese Web sites, Lobsang Gendun received so much
harassment by phone and online that he moved into a hotel.

"I told them, 'You've got the wrong person,'" said Gendun, a soft-spoken
father of two.

Meanwhile, a lingering sense of insult over the confrontation in Paris
has led to an online movement to boycott the French retail chain
Carrefour. And the Chinese Foreign Ministry has joined critics of CNN,
demanding that the network apologize for a commentator's remarks that
Chinese leaders were "thugs" and its products "junk."

In recent days, many Chinese users on MSN chat boards have attached
heart icons with the word "CHINA" next to their profile names.

One analyst played down the impact of the impassioned rhetoric, which
has been fanned by China's government-controlled media.

"The government loves that — allow it to dissipate online where it's
completely harmless," said Paul French, chief China analyst for market
intelligence provider Access Asia. "When it takes place on the street,
I'll be interested."

Jin previously was a member of Shanghai's wheelchair fencing team who
attracted little attention. The 28-year-old Paralympian's right leg had
been amputated when she was a child because of a malignant tumor.

The constant spotlight has been overwhelming, said spokespeople for
Lenovo, the Chinese computer manufacturer that is a torch relay sponsor
and chose Jin to participate in the relay. The Paralympics will be held
in Beijing on Sept. 6-17, following the Olympics.

Jin left Thursday's news conference on crutches, quickly.

During the 20-minute appearance, Jin avoided politics, although it
dominated the reporters' questions. Why was she attacked? She said she
still does not know: "I hope you in the media can answer that for me."

She repeated the Chinese government's position on the issue — "Tibet has
always been a part of China" — and when asked if she had considered the
Tibetans' point of view, the Lenovo minder sitting next to her whispered

"Everyone has their own point of view," Jin said. But she added,
addressing the protesters, "Your actions are wrong."

The torch incident in Paris apparently hasn't dampened Jin's enthusiasm.
A Lenovo spokeswoman said talks are under way about the possibility of
the fencer carrying the Olympic torch again, this time when it comes
through Shanghai.

When asked if she had a dream, Jin had a simple answer. "World peace,"
she said with a smile.
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