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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."

More protests expected as torch reaches San Francisco

April 10, 2008

Associated Press
April 9, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- Security was tightened on the Golden Gate Bridge and
elsewhere around the city Tuesday as officials prepared for massive
protests of China's crackdown in Tibet during the Olympic torch's only
North American stop on its journey to Beijing.

The Olympic flame was whisked to a secret location shortly after its
pre-dawn arrival Tuesday following widespread and chaotic demonstrations
during the torch relay in London and Paris. Activists are protesting
China's human rights record, its grip on Tibet and support for Sudan
despite years of bloodshed in Darfur.

The torch is scheduled to be paraded through the city Wednesday on a
six-mile route that hugs San Francisco Bay. Already, one runner who
planned to carry the torch dropped out because of safety concerns,
officials said.

It began its 85,000-mile journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to
Beijing on March 24, and was the focus of protests from the start.

Hours after it arrived in San Francisco, protesters marched to the
Chinese Consulate, calling on China to cease its heavy-handed rule of Tibet.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Chinatown, leaders of China's expatriate
community held a news conference calling for a peaceful relay, and said
they were proud China was selected to host the summer games.

In Beijing, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said
the body's executive board would discuss Friday whether to end the
international leg of the torch relay because of the demonstrations. He
said he was "deeply saddened" by the previous protests and was concerned
about the relay in San Francisco.

"We recognize the right for people to protest and express their views,
but it should be nonviolent. We are very sad for all the athletes and
the people who expected so much from the run and have been spoiled of
their joy," Rogge said.

Hundreds of activists carrying Tibetan flags and wearing traditional
clothes gathered in United Nations Plaza, a pedestrian area near San
Francisco's City Hall, to denounce China's policy toward Tibet and the
recent crackdown on protesters there. They then marched to the Chinese
Consulate as part of a daylong Tibetan Torch Relay.

"This is not about us battling the torchbearers," Lhadom Tethong,
executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, told the crowd outside
the consulate. "This is about the Chinese government using the torch for
political purposes. And we're going to use it right back."

The day of protests culminated in an evening candlelight vigil for
Tibet, with speeches by actor Richard Gere and human rights activist
Desmond Tutu, who called on President Bush and other heads of state to
boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

Olympic Torch Relay Route

The Olympic torch will tour five continents, stop in 20 countries and
cover 85,000 miles before it reaches its final destination in Beijing
for the Summer Games on Aug. 8.

"We must tell the leaders of the world, 'For goodness sake, for God's
sake, for the sake of your children, our children, for the sake of the
beautiful people of Tibet, don't go!'" Tutu told the crowd of hundreds.

San Francisco was chosen to host the relay in part because of its large
Asian population.

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education
Committee and a professor of political science at San Francisco State
University, said while many Chinese agree with critics of China, on the
whole, Chinese-Americans feel a tremendous sense of pride that the
Beijing Olympics chose San Francisco as the only relay site in North
America.

At a news conference Tuesday, business owners asked for calm.

"We are begging for five hours of peace," said Sam Ng, president of the
Chinese Six Companies, a prominent benevolent association.

Some residents also expressed dismay at the protests.

Ling Li, 29, who immigrated from China's Guangdong Province eight years
ago, said she was disappointed that this pivotal moment in her country's
history was being marred by demonstrations. She believes that Tibet is a
rightful part of China and its quest for independence should not be part
of the Olympics.

"If I support the Olympics, of course I don't support the protests. This
is the first time China has had the Olympics. We should be proud of
this," she said.

Pro-Tibet activists and other human rights groups said they'd encouraged
their supporters to protest peacefully and not disrupt the relay or the
torch runners.

Protesters perched themselves on the Golden Gate Bridge and unveiled
banners on Monday.

"We can be effective without [disruption]," said Allyn Brooks-LaSure, a
spokesman for Save Darfur. "Disrupting tomorrow's ceremonies couldn't
possibly embarrass Beijing any more than their disastrous Darfur policy
already has."

Still, law enforcement agencies prepared for the worst. Mayor Gavin
Newsom said there was a strong likelihood the relay's route would be
changed. He said the ultimate decision would be made by Police Chief
Heather Fong.

The Fire Department will have ambulances along the torch's route, the
San Francisco Sheriff's Department will have 50 or more extra deputies
on patrol, and vans will be available to haul away arrested protesters.

"We are trying to accomplish two goals here. One is to protect the right
to free speech and the other is to ensure public safety, and here in San
Francisco we are good at both of those things," said Newsom spokesman
Nathan Ballard.

The FAA has restricted flights over the city to media helicopters,
medical emergency carriers and law enforcement helicopters and
airplanes, such as those the California Highway Patrol will use to
monitor the torch's route.

The CHP has also increased the number of officers on the ground, to
guarantee the flow of traffic, protect the bridges that connect the San
Francisco Bay Area and provide immediate help to police.

United States Olympic Chairman Peter Ueberroth, who met with officials
at City Hall Tuesday, said afterward that his concern is for the
reputation of the U.S.

"Everybody is always concerned when you have a big international event.
My only concern is our reputation, our reputation as a country," he
said. "We believe in people's freedoms, and can we still operate as a
city and respect our own athletes and our people?"

The six-mile path currently assigned for the relay is shorter than the
courses in Paris and London, making it easier to secure. Newsom said the
amount of time set aside for the relay's opening and closing ceremonies
already had been cut, but he would not elaborate.

Security was tightened on the Golden Gate Bridge on Tuesday. On Monday,
three protesters scaled the famed span and tied the Tibetan flag and two
banners to its cables. Pedestrians and bike riders now must have any
large bags checked before they are allowed to cross the bridge.

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires,
Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries. The relay also is
expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on
its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China May 4.
The Olympics begin on Aug. 8.

The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant
to highlight China's rising economic and political power.
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