Join our Mailing List

"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."

Beijing Officials Won't Let Unrest in Tibet Deter Olympic Plans

March 20, 2008

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BEIJING, March 19 -- China's Olympic organizers declared Wednesday that
recent anti-Chinese violence in Tibet will not deter plans to relay the
Olympic torch through the troubled region, including taking it to the
top of Mount Everest.

The vow to carry on as planned, from Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice
president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games,
underlined the government's determination to make sure the Beijing Games
are seen around the world as a celebration of international fraternity
and a display of China's swift economic progress over the last three
decades.

The explosion of violence in Lhasa last Friday and a subsequent
crackdown by Chinese security forces have endangered that image just as
the torch relay is scheduled to get under way Monday with a handover
ceremony in Olympia, Greece, and the beginning of a 130-day, 85,000-mile
relay through foreign countries and China.

[In London Wednesday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao told him he would hold talks with the exiled Tibetan
leader, the Dalai Lama. "The premier told me that, subject to two things
that the Dalai Lama has already said -- that he does not support the
total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence -- that he
would be prepared to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama," Brown
said, according to news service reports.]

Attempts to make the Games a platform for political agendas contravene
the Olympic spirit and meet with disapproval by the millions of people
who want simply to enjoy the sporting events and pageantry planned to
begin Aug. 8, Jiang said. This holds true, he added, for whatever kind
of political goals activists may have in mind: humanitarian concerns in
Darfur, Tibetan independence, Muslim nationalism in the neighboring
Xinjiang region or human rights for Chinese in general.

"The Beijing Olympics torch relay is going to be held according to
plan," Jiang promised at a news conference announcing plans for the
relay. "These disturbances are totally against the spirit of the Olympic
Games. They are a challenge to the Olympic charter . . . These so-called
activities will not win the hearts and minds of the people and so they
are doomed to failure."

Much to Chinese officials' chagrin, the explosion of violence in Tibet
and broad sympathy abroad for the Tibetan people have invigorated
activists who have been urging a boycott of the Olympics opening
ceremony. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters
Tuesday that he found the idea interesting and would discuss it with
fellow ministers from the European Union. He stepped back from that a
bit Wednesday, telling reporters that a boycott might be "unrealistic,"
news services reported from Paris. "When you're dealing in international
relations with countries as important as China, obviously when you make
economic decisions it's sometimes at the expense of human rights," he
added. "That's elementary realism."

The Chinese government so far has taken comfort in the refusal of most
world leaders to heed pleas from human rights and Darfur activists to
use the Olympics to put political pressure on China. President Bush, for
instance, has said he regards the Olympics as a sporting event and plans
to attend the opening extravaganza Aug. 8.

Other world leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and
Britain's Brown, also have announced plans to attend, although Prince
Charles, heir to the British throne, refused on grounds of his
admiration for the Dalai Lama even before last week's bloody rioting in
Lhasa.

Jiang said sentiments for a boycott come only from "individuals" and
will not be picked up by the world's governments. "We are confident
other people will make up their own minds and will take the proper
decision and will participate in the Olympic Games and the opening
ceremony," he added.

"No matter what happens, in Tibet, in Xinjiang or in other places in
China, the torch relay will go on," he said. "I have full confidence in
the ability of Chinese authorities to ensure security for the torch relay."

At the same time, Jiang said, Olympics organizers have drawn up
contingency plans to change the relay route or cancel some segments if
conditions warrant it. Jiang mentioned the weather as a possible reason,
but left open the possibility that instability might also affect the
route across China.

The most spectacular part of the relay will be an attempt to carry the
torch to the top of Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world. Jiang
said the climb will be made during May but said the date has not yet
been fixed because runners will choose according to last-minute weather
conditions. At the same time, observers noted, leaving the date open
makes it more difficult for Tibetan sympathizers to plan protests at
that symbolic site.

Nepalese officials have said China is asking them to keep climbers off
Nepal's southern approaches to the 29,035-foot peak during the first 10
days of May, a popular climbing season. They interpreted the request as
a desire by Chinese authorities to use the southern route to avoid the
possibility of protesters on the northern approaches in Tibet.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank