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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibet protest mars Olympic ceremony

March 25, 2008

Al Jazeera
MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2008
13:07 MECCA TIME

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/75618A70-280A-4BFF-9CBA-A4E78A04DF26.htm

Protesters have breached security at the Olympic flame ceremony to shout
slogans condemning China's human rights record and unfurl a flag
demanding a boycott of the Beijing Games.

Three men staged the protest on Monday during a speech by Liu Qi, chief
Chinese Olympics organiser, before the flame was lit at the ancient
Greek temple of Olympia.

One man unfurled a flag declaring "Boycott the country that tramples on
human rights".

Another tried to grab the microphone from Liu and shouted "freedom,
freedom" at the official stand where Jacques Rogge, the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) chairman, and other dignitaries were sitting.

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Security officers quickly grabbed the three members of Reporters Sans
Frontieres, a media freedom group, and dragged them away.

Greek police had imposed heavy security around the site, which included
armed police watching from nearby hills.

The Greek government condemned the disruption of the ceremony saying it
was "not at all in keeping with the spirit of the Olympics".

Later, about 10 Tibetan activists, covered in red paint to simulate
blood, marched in the town's main street, shouting slogans against
Chinese rule in Tibet.

China has been widely criticised for its deadly crackdown on protesters
in Tibet in the past two weeks, a region it has occupied and ruled since
1950.

Torch ceremony

Several thousand people were present at Monday's ceremony, but all were
meant to have special accreditation.

The torch relay began with Alexandros Nikolaidis, a Greek taekwondo
athlete, who received the sacred flame from an actress representing an
ancient Greek high priestess in the ancient stadium of Olympia.

The torch relay will travel 137,000km over 130 days through five
continents before reaching Beijing's Olympic stadium for the opening
ceremony.

Dorjee said carrying China's 'bloodstained'
torch through Tibet would be an insult [AFP]
Earlier, Tibetan exiles had urged the IOC to cancel the torch relay
through the troubled region.

Tenzin Dorjee, the deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, said on
Sunday in Olympia: "If the IOC has any respect in itself, the first
thing it needs to do is drop the Tibet part of the relay.

"Carrying China's bloodstained torch through Tibet where we are seeing
evidence of discontent would be adding insult to 50 years of injury."

The IOC had approved the torch relay that includes Tibet and the peak of
Mount Everest.

Rogge said on Sunday that although the IOC was not a political
organisation, the games would bring positive change to China.

But Dorjee said: "The IOC has so far not been able to bring more freedom
to China.

"I hold Mr Jacques Rogge and the IOC personally responsible for what
happens in Tibet."

'Silent diplomacy'

Rogge said he is engaged in "silent diplomacy" with China on Tibet and
other human rights issues.

In an interview to the Associated Press news agency on Monday, he
reiterated his position that the IOC is not a political organisation and
cannot interfere in the internal affairs of China.

But he stressed that he is involved in private dialogue with Chinese
leaders and insisted the human rights situation has improved since
Beijing got the games seven years ago.

Rogge, who will chair IOC executive board meetings in Beijing next
month, said he will then meet Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier.

"I have a series of points to discuss with him and I'm sure he has
points to discuss with me," he said.

Tibet troubles

The unrest in Tibet began when Buddhist monks demonstrated in Tibet's
capital, Lhasa, on March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising
against Chinese rule, and on subsequent days.

Five days later anti-Chinese rioting shook the city and then spread to
nearby Chinese provinces with large ethnic Tibetan populations.

Chinese authorities say rioters killed 18 civilians and a policeman as
well as injured hundreds.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says the toll in the region is about 100.
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