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China Lashes Out at Olympic Critics

January 26, 2008

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 24, 2008

BEIJING -- In a blast of harsh rhetoric, China lashed out Thursday at
the Dalai Lama and critics of Beijing's support for Sudan, saying
attempts to link political issues to the Beijing Summer Olympics
betrayed the spirit of the games.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China could "definitely not
accept" rights groups that say China's support for Sudan's government is
prolonging the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

"To link the Darfur issue to the Olympics is a move to politicize the
Olympics and this is inconsistent with the Olympics spirit and will bear
no fruit," Jiang told reporters at a news conference.

She also attacked the Dalai Lama as a religious phony seeking to split
China, a response to the exiled Tibetan leader's reported support for
peaceful protests during the Olympics.

Beijing's tough approach illustrates its extreme sensitivity toward
anything that might tarnish its staging of the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games.
Beijing has invested billions of dollars and national prestige in what
it hopes will be a glorious showcase of China's rapid development from
impoverished agrarian nation to rising industrial power.

A tide of criticism from rights groups, celebrities and international
media threatens to dampen the mood surrounding the games.

On Sunday, actress Mia Farrow received widespread publicity with an
attempt to stage a protest at a former Khmer Rouge prison in Cambodia
over Chinese support for Sudan. Farrow has been working with the
U.S.-based advocacy group Dream for Darfur, which has held mock
Olympic-style torch-lighting ceremonies in places around the globe that
have suffered mass killings to call attention to the Darfur violence.

China has sold weapons to the Sudanese government and defended Khartoum
in the U.N. Security Council. Resource-hungry China buys two-thirds of
Sudan's oil exports and observers say Sudan's military receives up to 70
percent of oil royalties.

China says it plays a constructive role in seeking to resolve the Darfur
conflict, where more than 200,000 people have died since 2003, when
local rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government.

China last year began deploying 315 non-combat troops to Darfur to
prepare for a proposed 26,000-member African Union-U.N. peacekeeping
force that has been delayed in part by the Sudanese president's
insistence that participating troops be predominantly African.

"The international community knows very well that the Chinese government
has played a positive and constructive role," Jiang said. "Some
organizations are trying to make some sensations. This is to undermine
the preparation work of the Olympics and we are firmly against that."

While China routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama, a recent interview with
British broadcaster ITV News in which he reportedly gave his blessing
for protests at the Olympics put him in the focus again.

According to a transcript circulated by pro-Tibetan groups, the
72-year-old Nobel Peace laureate said protests could remind the Chinese
public of government policies he says are eroding the region's
traditional Buddhist culture.

The Dalai Lama said Chinese repression in Tibet had gotten "certainly
worse" since China was awarded the Olympics in 2001.

"The goal of all of his schemes is to split the motherland, sabotage
ethnic unity, sabotage China's relations with other nations and
interfere with the Olympic Games," Jiang said.

"So he is in no way a religious or spiritual leader. He is purely a
general leader bent on pursuing separatism and sabotaging national
unity," she said.

China has also been angered by a series of overseas visits by the Dalai
Lama, who leads an India-based exile government. Beijing's relations
with Germany were strained for months after Chancellor Angela Merkel
received the Dalai Lama in September.

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