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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibet Protest at Olympic Ceremony

April 1, 2008

By ANTHEE CARASSAVA
The New York Times
March 31, 2008

ATHENS — Greek officials handed over the Olympic flame to organizers of
the Beijing Summer Games on Sunday, but demonstrators angered by China’s
clampdown in Tibet sought to disrupt the ceremony, evading heavy
security to unfurl protest banners.

Shouting “Free Tibet” and flashing red banners blaring “Stop Genocie in
Tibet,” the demonstrators charged into a police cordon, trying to block
the torch runner carrying the Olympic flame from making the final
100-meter run into an Athens stadium.

Backed by riot squads, scores of police officers detained 10 of an
estimated 15 demonstrators, taking them to Greece’s national police
headquarters minutes after the ceremony began.

Athens mounted a major security operation for the event, deploying more
than 1,000 police officers and changing the flame’s route at least three
times to prevent activists from upstaging Sunday’s ceremony.

Yet even before the hand-over began, three supporters of the Falun Gong
spiritual movement were detained outside the sprawling all-marble
Panathinaiko Stadium for distributing leaflets on the movement, which is
outlawed in China.

“They continue to remain in police custody and we have been given no
reason by the authorities for their arrest,” the Falun Gong supporters’
lawyer, Ignatios Tatoulis, said.

It remained unclear whether the Tibet demonstrators and Falun Gong
supporters would be charged.

Still, Sunday’s scuffles capped a smattering of anti-China protests
staged across Greece since a group of French protesters disrupted the
globally televised flame-lighting ceremony at the site of the ancient
Olympic Games earlier this week.

China’s Communist leadership has come under heavy criticism since a
series of demonstrations turned violent in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa
on March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Communist
rule.

Beijing says 22 people have died in the clashes but the toll has since
then varied and been impossible to confirm because of a news blackout
imposed by China on the country’s interior.

The Olympic Games in Beijing are expected to attract 500,000 tourists
and four billion television viewers.

The Olympic flame, the iconic symbol of the Games, will arrive in
Beijing on March 31 before taking off on the longest, most ambitious
round-the-world torch relay in Olympic history: a 130-day trip that will
cross all five continents and climb up the summit of Mount Everest
before finally arriving at the National Stadium in Beijing for the Aug.
8 opening ceremony.
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