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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Everest Olympic torch diary

April 29, 2008

BBC News
Monday, 28 April 2008

As the Olympic torch makes its way around the world before arriving in
Beijing for the games in August, the BBC's Jonah Fisher joins it for the
high point of its trip - on Mount Everest.

In the third of his diary instalments, he arrives at Mount Everest
national park.

The first part of our high speed - even more highly managed - tour of
Tibet is nearing its end.

Everest is at last in sight, and we should reach it sometime on Monday.

The smiles on the faces of the Beijing Olympic Committee representatives
say it all.

Despite the best efforts of us international journalists to find someone
to express a slightly pro-Tibetan thought, we have not found anybody.

Having been blocked from going to the capital Lhasa, we have been forced
into a strict routine of brisk starts in the morning followed by a long
day of driving, with pauses for "attractions" en route.

Too much fruit

The first stop was at a hot springs near the small town of Lhatse.

We ate our hotel-packed lunches and then attempted to dip our feet into
extremely hot green water.

I then had my pulse read by a Tibetan doctor.

He first diagnosed me as being "sweaty in bed" which, with a large and
amused watching crowd, I vehemently denied.

The doctor's credentials under threat, he launched into a long
explanation of his family's 700-year history practising Tibetan medicine.

Pressed for a further diagnosis, and after consulting both wrists, he
said he was sure that I was experiencing digestion problems and that I
should cut back on fruit.

Unwilling to risk further offence I nodded sagely and said my goodbyes
before heading back to my colleagues waiting in the bus.

Next stop was the small monastery of Tsan lodged in the side of a
mountain 4,500 metres above sea level.

With monks having played a key role in March's riots, we had been asking
to speak to some for days.

A 23-year-old monk called Nima invited us into to his brightly coloured
room.

He showed us his prayer book and pictures on the wall of the 10th
Panchen Lama and his Chinese-appointed successor the 11th.

The role of Panchen Lama is widely regarded as that of Tibet's number
two spiritual leader behind the Dalai Lama.

Bad karma

Having been warmly welcomed by Nima, starved of access to anyone with
any relevance to Tibet's recent history, we proceeded to rather rudely
set upon him.

What did he make of the riots in Lhasa? Did he support the Dalai Lama?

With Chinese officials translating from Tibetan to Chinese to English he
had little choice but to denounce the rioters as not true Lamas, and
call the Dalai Lama a "splittist".

Feeling rather mean, we left Nima, only to be faced by a monk offering a
platter of extremely stringy dried yak meat.

Perhaps it was instant karma.

After sleeping in Lhatse we were driven to the home of a 63-year-old
illiterate farmer called Pu Bu.

Rather improbably he and his family are now the owners of a huge
two-storey house.

This was, our minders said, our chance to meet the "common people".

Surrounded by cameras Pu Bu told us how he considered himself Chinese
not Tibetan, and that during his lifetime China had brought great
progress to Tibet.

Like all the houses along the main road Pu Bu had put a new Chinese flag
on the roof of his house.

Like everyone else he had done it voluntarily, he told us, because he
was so excited about the Olympics coming to Beijing.

Mountain view

For almost all the people we have spoken to on this trip, the Olympics
is more a symbol than sporting games.

But few of the people could name a single event.

Pu Bu certainly could not.

Having passed a group of Chinese riot police on the edge of Mount
Everest / Mount Qomalangma national park, we caught our first glimpse of
the world's highest mountain.

A three-hour drive and we should be at Base Camp tomorrow.

We have at last been given our first solid piece of information about
the event we are supposed to be exclusively covering.

The second Olympic torch is now at Base Camp ready for the climb.

For whatever reason there is apparently still no chance of us being able
to witness the start of its epic ascent.
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