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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."

Rogge in 'silent diplomacy' with China on Tibet and rights

March 26, 2008

Associated Press
March 24, 2008

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece — IOC president Jacques Rogge said Monday he is
engaged in "silent diplomacy" with China on Tibet and other human rights
issues in advance of the Beijing Olympics.

Rogge gave his most extensive public comments on China's political
situation in an interview with The Associated Press in Ancient Olympia,
where he was attending the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Games.

Rogge and the International Olympic Committee have come under pressure
to speak out about the crackdown in Tibet and China's record on human
rights, Darfur, freedom of speech and other issues as the Aug. 8-24
Games approach.

Rogge reiterated his long-standing position that the IOC is not a
political organization 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.

"The IOC is engaged in what I call a 'silent diplomacy' with Chinese
authorities since Day 1 of the preparations of the Games," Rogge said.
"We are discussing on a daily basis with Chinese authorities, including
discussing these issues, while strictly respecting the sovereignty of
China in its affairs."

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

"I have a series of points to discuss with him and I'm sure he has
points to discuss with me," Rogge said, without elaborating.

"I repeat, we are not a political body, we are not an NGO, but it is our
responsibility to make sure the athletes get the best possible Games
which they deserve," he said.

Rogge contested claims that the human rights situation in China has
deteriorated since the IOC gave the Games to Beijing in 2001.

"I dispute that, I challenge that," he said. "Awarding the Games to
China has put China in the limelight and opened the (human rights)
issues up to the world. Tibet, rightfully so, is on the front page. But
it would not be on the front page if the Games were not being organized
in China."

"I believe the Games have advanced the agenda of human rights," Rogge
added. "Is the situation perfect? By no means. Has it improved? I'm
saying yes. Is the glass half full, or half empty? I'm saying half full."

The violence in Tibet has brought China's policies to the fore in the
final months before the Games. Protests began on March 10 on the 49th
anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and turned
violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans in
three neighbouring 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.

Rogge expressed concern about the violence but would not criticize China
for its crackdown.

"It's difficult to make a judgment on the responsibilities, but violence
from whatever side is something which of course is worrying us," he said.

Rogge said the IOC can no more than join world leaders in calling for a
peaceful resolution of the situation.

"The United States of America, the European Union and the pope have
called for a peaceful resolution and a reduction of violence," he said.
"We are saying what the world leaders are saying."

Later Monday, two pro-Tibet demonstrators carrying black flags with the
Olympic rings evaded heavy security and ran onto the field while Beijing
organizing chief Liu Qi was speaking during the flame-lighting ceremony.
The men were quickly detained by police, and the flame was successfully
lit by the sun's rays. Another Tibetan campaigner and a Greek
photographer with him were detained at another site in the village.

The torch relay will travel 136,000 kilometres over 130 days through
five continents before reaching Beijing's Olympic stadium for the
opening ceremony. Rogge expressed concern at the possibility of violent
protests along the route.

"The torch relay is a symbol of peace, a symbol of unity of people of
the world and of the Olympic truce," he said. "We call on everyone not
to use violence. I don't think the public opinion would accept violence
in such a public event. It would be counterproductive."

The torch relay is scheduled to go through Tibet, creating a possible
flashpoint. Rogge said there are no plans to change the route, but
didn't rule it out.

"The original torch relay route has been confirmed by BOCOG and Chinese
authorities," he said. "So far, as I speak now, the IOC is in agreement
with that. No one can foresee the future."

Rogge, meanwhile, said there is no "credible momentum whatsoever" for
any Olympic boycott over Tibet.

"The major governments do not want it, the sports community definitely
do not want it, and I'm sure the public opinion does not want it," he said.

Some politicians have suggested the possibility of government leaders
boycotting the opening ceremony, but Rogge also said there was no broad
support for such a move.

Despite the heightened controversy surrounding the Games, Rogge said the
decision to give the Olympics to Beijing was the right one.

"When we awarded the Games to China, we knew there would be
discussions," he said. "We were not naive. We knew discussions would
flare up in the last six months and that has happened. ... We cannot
deny one-fifth of mankind the advantages of Olympism ... We believe the
Games will be a catalyst for change and will open a country which used
to be mysterious to much of the world."

While some national Olympic committees have been criticized for
reportedly trying to muzzle athletes from speaking on political issues
at the Games, Rogge said competitors will be free to express their
opinions — as long as they are outside Olympic venues and the athletes'
village.

"We do not want the Olympic venues to be the place where politics are
being discussed," he said. "Outside the venues, the athletes are free to
do anything they want."

For example, an athlete would be free to walk around non-Olympic sites
wearing a pro-Tibet T-shirt.

"I have had assurances from the Chinese authorities they would respect
the free expression of the athletes," Rogge said. "The athletes of
course have to respect the laws of the country. In any country in the
world, if you want to demonstrate as a group you have to advise the
authorities. But if an athlete wants to walk with a T-shirt and have an
interview with the media, that is no problem."
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