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Indian actor Aamir Khan criticizes crackdown on Tibetans, will still run in relay

April 3, 2008

The Associated Press
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

MUMBAI, India: A top Bollywood actor said he sympathizes with Tibetan
activists and does not support China's recent crackdown on protests
there, but he still plans to run in the Olympic torch relay later this
month in India's capital.

Aamir Khan made the comments Tuesday in a statement posted on his blog
in response to fans who asked him not to take part.

The actor said while he respected the Tibetan people's struggle, he
believed the Olympic Games represented an opportunity for people around
the world to come together despite their differences.

"When I do run with the torch on the 17th of April, it is not in support
of China," he said. "In fact it will be with a prayer in my heart for
the people of Tibet, and indeed for all people across the world who are
victims of human rights violations."

The 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile) torch relay has become a lightning
rod for controversy in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August.
China envisions the games as a way to showcase its growing economic and
political clout, but they have also focused attention on the country's
human rights record following deadly protests last month in Tibet.

Khan's statement came the same day India's soccer captain Bhaichung
Bhutia, a Buddhist from an Indian region with ancient ties to Tibet,
announced he would not be taking part in the relay.

Bhutia is reported to be the first athlete to decline a role in the
relay because of the Tibet crackdown. A Thai torchbearer, an
environmental activist, withdrew from the relay last month for similar
reasons.

In February, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic
adviser to the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, citing the crisis
in Darfur and China's support for the Sudanese government.

The Olympic torch arrived in Beijing on Monday after demonstrations by a
pro-Tibetan group during its passage from Ancient Olympia in Greece.
Protests are expected in several major cities during the torch's
20-nation tour.
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