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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Protests disrupt Oly flame ceremony

March 25, 2008

Monday March 24, 2008

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) -- Press freedom and pro-Tibet protesters
disrupted Monday's flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Games and the
early stages of the torch relay.

Police said four people had been detained, a Tibetan woman and three
members of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders.

"This is a disgrace," said Lampis Nikolaou, a Greek member of the IOC.
"I am furious with these people ... who did not respect this site.
Whatever their differences with China, they should express them in their
own countries."

The protests occurred despite heavy security at Ancient Olympia --
birthplace of the games -- where more than 1,000 police were deployed.

The three French protesters ran onto the stadium's field while Liu Qi,
president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee and Beijing
Communist Party Secretary, was giving a speech. One of the men held a
banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs.

"If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so," the
French group said in a statement. "We cannot let the Chinese government
seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the
dramatic situation of human rights in the country."

Moments later, a Tibetan woman covered herself in red paint and lay in
the road in front of a runner carrying the Olympic torch into the
village of ancient Olympia, while other protesters chanted "Free Tibet"
and "Shame on China."

The protesters came within a few meters (yards) of the torchbearer, who
ran on the spot for about 10 seconds while police in plain clothes
removed the female protester and a man holding up a Tibetan flag.

IOC president Jacques Rogge attended the ceremony, where the sun's rays
were used to kindle the flame.

"It's always sad when there are protests. But they were not violent and
I think that's the important thing," Rogge told The Associated Press.

The Greek government also denounced the incidents.

Reporters Without Borders identified its detained men as Robert Menard,
the group's general secretary, Jean-Francois Juliard and Vincent Brossel.

"They are waiting for the prosecutor," spokeswoman Sanny Dumont told the
AP. "They don't know if they will be released or charged. They have not
been mistreated at all."

When the stadium incident took place, China state TV cut away to a
prerecorded scene, preventing Chinese viewers from seeing the protest.
Commentators on Chinese TV never mentioned what took place.

Tibet's deadly protests started March 10 in the capital of Lhasa on the
49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The
demonstrations turned violent four days later, touching off
demonstrations among Tibetans in three neighboring provinces.

Beijing's official death toll from the rioting is 22, but the Dalai
Lama's government-in-exile has said 99 Tibetans have been killed.

 From Olympia, the flame started on its 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile)
journey across five continents, ending at the Beijing stadium on Aug. 8.

A total 645 torchbearers will carry the flame through Greece for a week,
over 1,528 kilometers (950 miles). It will make a stopover at the
Acropolis before being handed over to Chinese officials at the restored
ancient stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.
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