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China promises 'secure' Olympic Games

July 24, 2008

Norma Greenaway,  CanWest News Service
The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
July 23, 2008

OTTAWA -- The head of a visiting delegation from China says his
government is confident it can stage a secure Olympic Games, despite
concerns about the bombing of two public buses earlier this week in a
major Chinese city and potential attacks by Tibetan independence activists.

Tondrub Wangben said two meetings with personal representatives of
the Dalai Lama since a major uprising in Tibet last March had been
successful in uniting around the idea that there should be no
"disruption" or "sabotaging" of the Beijing Olympics, which are set
to open Aug. 8.

"The Chinese government is fully confident about a secure Olympic
Games, and we are fully capable of achieving that," Mr. Wangben, a
professor at the Central University for Nationalities, said Tuesday
at a new conference at the Chinese Embassy.

Mr. Wangben said the government is on guard for possible attacks by
Tibetan independence elements, given the violent protests that swept
the region this spring, but he said he had no information about who
was responsible for the two bomb attacks in Kunming on Monday that
killed at least two people, and injured more than a dozen others.

Mr. Wangben was part of a four-man delegation that has spent the last
week visiting government officials, academics and journalists in
Washington, New York, Ottawa and Toronto as part of a pre-Olympics
bid to correct what they say are misconceptions about China's
treatment of Tibetans, as well as the Dalai Lama, whom the
Conservative government made an honourary Canadian in 2006 but whom
the Chinese regard as a separatist.

At the news conference, the Dalai Lama, who was driven into exile in
1959 and lives in India, was portrayed as more of a political
operator than a holy man. It's inaccurate to see the "so-called
leader of a so-called government in exile" as merely a spiritual
leader, Mr. Wangben said.

He said people outside China need to recognize the gains Tibetans
have made in the last five decades. For example, he said, the
illiteracy rate in Tibet has fallen to 28% from 95%.

Dermod Travis, executive director of the Montreal-based Canada Tibet
Committee, dismissed the delegation as a "Tibet spin doctor tour" and
said China is guilty of ignoring the views and needs of Tibetans at a
time when the region is undergoing rapid economic development -- with
Tibetans receiving no discernable benefits.

"One of the key reasons for the riots and protest in March and April
was the fact that any economic spinoff that has been created by
development has not gone to Tibetans," Mr. Travis said in an interview.

The massive Tibet-Beijing railway has sparked resentment in the
Tibetan community because, among other things, it employs no
Tibetans, he said. It also has spurred a boom in tourism businesses,
almost all of which are owned and controlled by ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs.

"One of the motivating factors behind those protests was this sense
of [Tibetans] becoming not just second-class citizens but sixth-class
citizens in their own country," Mr. Travis said.

Still, Mr. Travis said there is common ground between the Chinese
government and its Tibetan critics when it comes to the Olympics.
"It's our hope, it's the Dalai Lama's hope, that the Olympics go off
as a celebration of sport and achievement," he said, echoing hopes
Mr. Wangben expressed earlier at the news conference.
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