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TV presenter Huq set to pull out of Olympic torch relay

March 28, 2008

By Emily Dugan
The Independent
Friday, 28 March 2008

The television presenter Konnie Huq is on the brink of pulling out of
her role in the Olympic torch relay in response to China's crackdown on
Tibetan protesters.

The former Blue Peter presenter said she was struggling with her
conscience after hearing the extent of the human rights abuses in Tibet.
"China has a lot to answer for, and I've been struggling with it;
obviously I condemn what they're doing," she said. "I'm definitely

The presenter, who left the children's television programme in January
after 10 years, said that if she did take part in the relay she would
use it as an opportunity to speak out against China's actions. "I think
the situation is terrible, and I think that anyone who is doing [the
relay] should speak out on their views," she said. "It would be
embarrassing for China if anyone taking part took a stand but still ran."

Huq, 32, is one of many celebrities and Olympians billed to take part in
the Olympic torch relay as it passes through London on 6 April. Other
torch-bearers include the Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, the
violinist Vanessa Mae and the news presenter Sir Trevor MacDonald.

So far, no one else has said they are considering a boycott, but the
Olympic swimming gold medallist Duncan Goodhew condemned China's
actions. "I'm appalled with what's going on in Darfur and Tibet, and
that the Chinese have not yet embraced the freedoms we have," he said.
"We need to encourage the Chinese as seriously as we can to come into
the modern world, but I think a boycott would be a futile gesture."

Anti-China demonstrations which began in the Tibetan capital Lhasa more
than two weeks ago have seen 140 people killed, according to human
rights groups. The violent clashes between police and protesters have
sparked outcry around the world.

The Foreign Office has condemned Beijing for its actions, but the
Government has shown no signs of using the Olympics to make this point.
Gordon Brown said: "We will not be boycotting the Olympic Games. Britain
will be attending the Olympic Games ceremonies."

The Prime Minister was speaking at a press conference with the French
President Nicholas Sarkozy, who reiterated a statement that he was still
considering a boycott. He said he would use the next few months "to try
to pacify the situation", adding: "I reserve the right to decide whether
I will attend the opening ceremony."

In total 80 people will be taking the Olympic torch on the London leg of
its 137,000km journey to Beijing next week, and Huq's remarks will be
yet another blow to China's reputation ahead of the games. Huq said that
if she did take part she was considering wearing a "free Tibet" T-shirt
during her leg.

Anne Holmes, of Free Tibet UK, said she was delighted with the
presenter's stance. "The fact that Konnie Huq is speaking out about
Tibet makes the point that China can't use the Olympics as an excuse for
a big coming-out party when what's going on in Tibet is beyond the
pale," she said. "We hope she will say something about the Chinese torch
going through Tibet, which is now frankly obscene."

Kristyan Benedict, of Amnesty International, said: "With dissenters
silenced within China it's more important than ever that pressure comes
from outside the country. We'd encourage anyone involved in the Games to
find out what's really happening in China and to consider speaking out
against human rights abuses."

*The BBC said yesterday it had called in the police after files holding
details of its staff who will cover to the Beijing Olympics went
missing. The folders, with addresses, passport numbers, pictures, and
hotel details of more than 430 staff, vanished from Television Centre in
west London. The BBC said it feared that the files had been stolen,
possibly for identity theft.
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