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Prince to boycott Games

January 29, 2008

CNN International
January 28, 2008

(CNN) -- Britain's Prince Charles will not attend the opening ceremonies
of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing -- and a group that campaigns
against China's human rights record said Monday that the future
monarch's decision was in solidarity with its aims.
art.prince.gi.jpg

Free Tibet Campaign officials said they had written to the Prince of
Wales asking him to stay away from the event, which begins on August 8.

However, it was not clear if the prince had been invited to attend -- he
is believed to have gone to an Olympics only once before, when his
sister Princess Anne competed in Montreal in 1976.

The Princess Royal's daughter, Zara Phillips, is hoping to represent
Britain in equestrian at the event this year. Her father, Captain Mark
Phillips, won a gold medal at the 1972 Munich Games.

A spokeswoman for the Prince of Wales told CNN Monday that his office
did not comment on private correspondence, but said, "There are no plans
to attend the ceremony."

The Free Tibet group told the prince -- a long-time supporter of Tibetan
leader the Dalai Lama -- that human rights conditions in China and the
small Himalayan nation had deteriorated since China was awarded the
summer sporting showpiece, despite its promises to improve them.

"With all that in mind, we asked the prince not to go to the Games
because to do so would represent the tacit endorsement of the worsening
human rights situation in Tibet," spokesman Matt Whitticase told CNN.

Whitticase said his group received a prompt response from the prince's
deputy private secretary, informing it of the prince's decision to stay
away.

The Free Tibet Campaign said the letter from the prince's office read:

"As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in
Tibet. You asked if the Prince of Wales would be attending the opening
ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be
attending the ceremony."

Whitticase said his group was now asking other high-profile leaders to
follow the prince's "principled example."

"We feel these Games are destined to become known as the 'Games of
Shame'," he said.

There was no immediate reaction from Beijing. Earlier this month, a
foreign ministry spokeswoman told the state news agency that some groups
were trying to politicize the Games "to slur China's image and to put
pressure on the Chinese government."

"No country in the world is perfect in human right issues," spokeswoman
Jiang Yu told Xinhua. "The Chinese people are enjoying many rights that
they have never enjoyed before."

Prince Charles was embroiled in controversy over China in 2005 when
British newspapers published details from one of his private journals,
in which he called diplomats from the communist country "appalling old
waxworks" following the handover of Hong Kong.

The Free Tibet Campaign, founded 20 years ago, advocates an end to
China's occupation of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama has called for more autonomy from communist China and
asked that it grant Tibetans the freedom to practice their religion.

China claims that it is the rightful and legitimate government of Tibet
after its 1951 invasion. It sees the Dalai Lama's work as part of
"separatist activities."
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