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Dalai Lama supports China Olympics, but also right to protest

April 11, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008
CBC News

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, says he supports
China's hosting of the Olympics in Beijing, but that those who don't are
entitled to

engage in non-violent protest of this summer's Games.

He made the comments Thursday following days of global protests over
China's actions in Tibet, where anti-government demonstrations became

violent last month. Many of the protests have been staged during
pre-Olympic events, including this week's Olympic torch relay, with some

demonstrators calling for a boycott of the Games.

"I support Chinese host of famous world [Games] because China is the
most populated nation, an ancient nation, therefore, it is really
deserved for

the Chinese people to make host of Olympic Games. Until today, in spite
of recent unfortunate events in Tibet, my position [is] not changed," the

Dalai Lama told reporters during a layover in Japan en route to the
United States.

The European Parliament passed a resolution Thursday calling on European
governments to consider a boycott of the Olympics' opening ceremony in

August if China doesn't resume talks with the Dalai Lama to end the
stalemate.

The Dalai Lama said he is not "anti-Chinese" and has always supported
the Olympic Games in Beijing.

"I really feel very sad the government demonizes me. I am just a human,
I am not a demon."

The Chinese government has consistently accused the Dalai Lama of
encouraging and even planning the protests in Tibet and neighbouring
regions

— a charge the spiritual leader has denied. The Dalai Lama said Thursday
he does not support violent protest, but that dissenters must be allowed

to exercise their right to free speech.

"The expression of their feelings is up to them," he said. "Nobody has
the right to tell them to shut up. One of the problems in Tibet is that
there is

no freedom of speech."

The Tibetan government in exile's prime minister, Samdhong Rinpoche,
said his government doesn't support the disruption of the Olympic torch
relay

and would like to see a peaceful resolution to its dispute with China.

"If [Chinese officials] are wise enough, some path for reconciliation
might be opened," Rinpoche told reporters in New Delhi, where he addressed

thousands of protesters on Thursday. "If they remain rigid, the movement
will not end and it will sustain by itself."

Roughly 200 protesters had marched to New Delhi from Dharmsala, the seat
of Tibet's government in exile and home to the Dalai Lama. The other

demonstrators arrived from neighbouring states.
Torch run focus of protests

Protesters opposed to China's policies on Tibet, Darfur and its overall
human rights record have taken centre stage as the Olympic torch began its

circuit around the globe last week.

The Paris segment of the relay had to be suspended at least five times
as demonstrators threatened to halt the torch run. Earlier in London,
police

repeatedly scuffled with protesters, including one who tried to grab the
torch while another tried to snuff out the flame.

On Wednesday, the parade route in San Francisco was changed at the last
minute and shortened by almost half to avoid anti-China protesters. The

planned closing ceremony at the waterfront was cancelled and instead the
torch was whisked straight onto a plane at the international airport.

The next destination for the torch on its 21-stop, six-continent tour is
Argentina. Then it continues to a dozen other countries, including India,

where it is expected to face more demonstrations.
Torch run will go on: IOC head

The head of the International Olympic Committee said he was relieved
that the San Francisco leg of the torch relay passed without major incident

and is confident the Beijing Games will rebound from the relay "crisis."

"This scenario is definitely not on the agenda," Jacques Rogge said
Thursday at a news conference in Beijing, referring to the mass
demonstrations.

"We are studying together with [Beijing organizers] to improve the torch
relay, but there is no scenario of either interrupting or bringing [the
torch]

back directly to Beijing."

Rogge said that during the bidding process, he was assured by Chinese
officials who said the Olympics would help advance social change, including

human rights. He called it a "moral engagement" but stressed there was
no "contractual promise whatsoever" on human rights in the official
contract.

"I would definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement," Rogge said.
Plot to kidnap athletes busted: police

Meanwhile, a Chinese official Thursday said authorities had broken up a
criminal ring planning to kidnap athletes and other people during the
Beijing

Olympics, scheduled to run Aug. 8-24.

Ministry of Public Security Spokesman Wu Heping said 35 people were
arrested between March 26 and April 6 in the western Xinjiang region for

plotting to kidnap athletes, foreign journalists and other visitors.
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