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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China envoy 'to quit Olympic torch relay over Tibet demos'

April 4, 2008

Rob Singh and Matthew Beard
This is London, UK
Thursday 03.04.08


The Chinese ambassador was today on the brink of pulling out of the
Beijing Olympic torch relay through London.

Hours after Fu Ying was confirmed as one of 80 torchbearers for Sunday's
event, her role was in doubt amid concerns she will be the prime target
for thousands of anti-China protesters.

The Chinese embassy appeared to pave the way for her withdrawal when a
spokesman said she would probably be committed to other VIP duties on
the day.

The news came as police prepared to throw a ring of steel around the
31-mile route amid mounting fear of violence between pro-Tibet and
pro-China groups.

At least 80,000 spectators are expected to line the streets between
Wembley and Greenwich, and thousands of police will mount patrols.

Eighty people, including sports, arts and screen stars, will carry the
torch through 10 boroughs. But some - including former Blue Peter
presenter Konnie Huq - are expected to protest over China's crackdown on
dissent in Tibet and its poor human rights record. Some may wear "free
Tibet" T-shirts or wave pro-Tibet flags.

Campaigners have warned that pro-Chinese groups are planning a
counterattack against activists. Gordon Brown is due to greet the torch
at No 10 but Whitehall is expected to be a flashpoint.

Anne Holmes, acting director of the Free Tibet campaign, warned: "The
last time there was a Chinese state visit it did get unpleasant. There
was an aggressive response from some members of the Chinese community to
Free Tibet's presence."

The ambassador was to have been handed the flame at the British Museum
but Zhao Shangsen, second secretary at the embassy, said: "Beijing
requires the ambassador to be with the [Beijing Olympic] delegation. She
does not know whether she can meet the two demands."

There are also fears protesters will target the other three Chinese VIPs
lined up to carry the torch.

The police presence will include officers on bicycles, boats on the
Thames and a helicopter overhead. Senior officers have been in talks
with at least six groups organising demonstrations. Commander Bob
Broadhurst, in charge of the security operation, said: "We will deal
with anything swiftly and properly. I am confident the police will act
appropriately."

The Greater London Authority can change the route at the last minute, or
while the relay is under way, if it thinks it necessary.

The torch is due at Heathrow on Saturday. Starting with Sir Steve
Redgrave at Wembley Stadium, it will pass through north-west London,
through Oxford Street, Chinatown, and Whitehall. Cricketer Kevin
Pietersen will carry it round Big Ben while the Sugababes will escort it
along Oxford Street.

It will move on to Stratford and at the O2 Arena Dame Kelly Holmes will
use it to ignite a cauldron.

Free Tibet said: "We have been approached by a number of torchbearers in
confidence who feel it may be appropriate to make a pro-Tibet statement
during the relay."

Sir Steve Redgrave revealed he had been urged to boycott the event:
"Pressure I've had is from a number of emails urging me that a stand
would make a difference. It was nothing unfriendly. I can see why they
would like to make an issue over the torch relay."

Huq has said she had considered pulling out but will use her status as a
torchbearer to protest instead.

There will be street parties and live shows along the route, including a
party in Trafalgar Square and performances outside Royal Festival Hall.
The band of the Scots Guards will play outside St Paul's Cathedral and
there will be a carnival in Theatre Square, Stratford.

2012 chairman Lord Coe said: "We hope the people of London and the
country will support our athletes and come and see them."

The torch is on a four-month, 85,000-mile, 21-country journey to Beijing.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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