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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."

Torch carries Tibet debate to UK

April 8, 2008

By Jon Kelly
BBC News
April 6, 2008

With colourfully-dressed groups of rival supporters waving flags and
chanting slogans, it had all the ingredients of a major sporting event.

But athletics became juxtaposed with politics as the Olympic torch made
its way through the streets of London en route to the controversial
Beijing 2008 games.

Protesters opposed to China's human rights record and presence in Tibet
made sure that attention was focused on more than just sporting endeavour.

Like any stadium crowd, they chanted and sang - but their slogans
included "Shame on you, China," and "Stop the killing in Tibet."

They were confronted by crowds of pro-Chinese government demonstrators
determined to dispel what they described as lies about their country
propagated by the western media.

The incongruous April snowfall might have meant the day at times
resembled the Winter Olympics more than springtime in London.

Teams of police and stewards ringing the torchbearers to prevent the
flame being blown out - around 2,000 officers were mobilised to maintain
order along the 31-mile route.

Cmdr Jo Kaye of Scotland Yard said the force faced a difficult task.

"It would be no good surrounding the torch with a twelve-foot high wall,
would it? No-one would enjoy that," he said.

"We've got to allow people to see it."

And though there were arrests and regular grapples between protesters
and police, the most serious attempt to disrupt the event - by snatching
the torch from former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq - was foiled.

Ms Huq - who had publicly wavered over whether to take part - looked
shaken as she recounted the incident to the BBC.

"I was completely oblivious at first, and before I knew what was
happening this guy had lurched towards me.

"It was quite a violent little tussle, but I guess he wanted his
opinions to be known."

Further scuffles followed the flame all the way as protesters tried to
breach police lines.

But even when 2,000 demonstrators from both sides faced each other
outside the British Library in Bloomsbury, most concentrated on chanting
rather than physically confronting their opponents.

One demonstrator who was determined to make his voice heard was Phuntbok
Dalu, 33, from Enfield, Middlesex.

Born to Tibetan parents in India, he insisted it was impossible to
disentangle Chinese government policy from the event.

"People say that sport and politics shouldn't mix," he said.

"But when the blood of Tibet is smeared all over these games, I don't
see how you can make that argument."

Not all had a personal stake in the dispute, however.

Claudie Whitaker, 44, from Groombridge in Kent took part along with
daughter Elizabeth Nicholls, 17, after seeing TV footage of recent
protests in Tibet.

"I'm marching today because the people of Tibet aren't allowed to do so
for themselves," Claudie said.

"I've never been on a demonstration before, but I felt I had do
something positive."

Tibet's government-in-exile said on Tuesday that it could confirm 140
people had died in recent violence. China has reported 19 deaths.

However, the pro-Beijing contingent along the route - although less
noisy - were equally insistent that their side was the victim of injustice.

"The western media hasn't been telling the truth," said Emma Ha, 34,
from London.

"It was Tibetans who attacked Chinese the other week, not the other way
round."

A fellow Chinese expat in the UK capital, Paul Zhou, 50, added: "These
protesters say they want freedom for Tibet.

"But if the Dalai Lama was in charge, Tibet would be even less free than
it is now. I support Beijing."

The Free Tibet contingent will argue that it has led the debate about
Beijing's policies right into the heart of London.
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