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PARIS, Aug 16 – The Dalai Lama said on Saturday China was mistreating and torturing civilians in Tibet while the Olympic Games were going on.

“Unfortunately the Olympic spirit is not being respected at all by Chinese officials in Tibet,” he said in an interview on France’s TF1 television, when asked if the tradition of an Olympic truce was being respected.

“There are restrictions on the circulation of information, very strong censorship,” he said.

“Civilians are often arrested, violently tortured to the point where they die. It’s really very, very sad,” he said.

The Dalai Lama is on a two-week visit to France, mostly focused on religious commitments. He has made few political comments but he criticised China’s actions in Tibet at a meeting on Wednesday with French legislators.

The visit has triggered a domestic row in France, where critics accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy of caving into Chinese pressure by declining to meet him.

On Saturday he met Sarkozy’s challenger in last year’s presidential election, Segolene Royal, who said she intended to visit Tibet.

Foreign activists have staged a number of protests in Beijing to highlight what they say is repression of Tibetans in the Himalayan region but the Dalai Lama has appealed to supporters not to disrupt the Games.


AP [Sunday, April 27, 2008 16:21]
SEOUL, South Korea, April 27 – A North Korean defector tried to set himself on fire to halt the Olympic torch relay through Seoul, while thousands of police guarded the flame Sunday from protesters blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.

Hundreds of China supporters waving the Chinese flag greeted the torch, throwing rocks at anti-Beijing demonstrators. Police ran alongside the flame and rode horses and bicycles on the relay across the city, which hosted the 1988 Olympics.

The torch relay has become a lightning rod for anti-China demonstrations. At other stops, protesters have focused their ire on Beijing’s recent crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet. But in South Korea, China’s treatment of North Korean defectors has taken center stage.

One of two North Korean defectors Son Jong Hoon, left, pours gasoline as police officers try to detain them during the Beijing Olympic torch run in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 27, 2008. Son tried to set himself on fire to halt the Olympic torch relay Sunday in Seoul, where thousands of police guarded the flame from protesters blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.
Thousands of North Koreans, fleeing lives of hardship in a country that restricts all civil liberties, have escaped across the loosely controlled Chinese border, rather than attempt the heavily fortified frontier with the South. Many live in hiding in China, where if caught, they are deported back home to face imprisonment in life-threatening conditions.

The man who tried to immolate himself, 45-year-old Son Jong Hoon, had led an unsuccessful public campaign to save his brother from execution in the North, where he was accused of spying after the two met secretly in China. About an hour into the relay, Son poured gasoline on himself and tried to light himself on fire, but police stopped him.

At the start of the relay, a protester rushed toward the Olympic flame and tried to unfurl a banner calling for China to respect the rights of North Korean refugees. Dozens of police surrounding the torch quickly whisked him away. As it approached the city center, another North Korean defector also tried to impede the run and was arrested
There were no further attempts to stop the torch on its 4 1/2-hour trip through Seoul to City Hall, where it was met by some 5,000 supporters.

Some 8,000 police were deployed across the South Korean capital to guard the torch on its 15-mile run from Olympic Park.

The first runner, the South’s Korean Olympic Committee head Kim Jung-kil, jogged out of the park surrounded by police on horseback, on bicycles, in buses and on foot.

Thousands of Chinese also paced the torch. They carried a large red Chinese flag, chanting “Go China, go Olympics!”

Scuffles broke out near the park between a group of 500 Chinese supporters and about 50 demonstrators. The Chinese side threw stones and water bottles at the others as some 2,500 police tried to keep the two groups apart.

A rock hit a journalist in the head, but there were apparently no other injuries.

“The Olympics are not a political issue,” said Sun Cheng, 22, a Chinese student studying the Korean language in Seoul. “I can’t understand why the Korean activist groups are protesting human rights or other diplomatic issues.”

Seoul is one of the last stops on the torch’s international tour, which ends when the flame arrives in Hong Kong on Wednesday. On Sunday, three human rights activists who planned to protest the relay in Hong Kong were barred from entering the Chinese-ruled territory, local media and the one of the activists said.

The torch heads next to North Korea for its first-ever run in the communist country on Monday. Disruptions were not expected in the North, an authoritarian state that tolerates no dissent.


Nagano, Japan, April 26 – Crowds of Chinese students waving red flags and signs such as “One World, One Dream, One China” scuffled with pro-Tibet protesters in the latest leg of the Olympic torch relay in Japan on Saturday.

Commenting on the turmoil that has bedevilled the global relay, International Olympics Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge urged the West to stop hectoring China over human rights.

“You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” Rogge told Saturday’s Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the West wanting to add their views”.

“To keep face [in Asia] is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works — respectful, quiet but firm discussion,” Rogge added.

The global torch relay ahead of the Beijing Games in August has prompted protests against China’s human rights record, including in Tibet, as well as patriotic rallies by Chinese who criticise the West for vilifying Beijing.

As rain fell in Nagano, chants of “Go China” mixed with “Free Tibet” from the rival groups, who at times clashed despite the tight security in the central city, host to the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Four Chinese supporters were injured and three men were arrested, fire officials and police said, including one man who was wrestled to the ground after running into the relay path holding a Tibetan flag and shouting “Free Tibet”.

More than 3 000 police were mobilised for the relay, which comes a day after Chinese state media said Beijing would hold talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist leader of Tibet, whom it blames for recent unrest.

Japan was keen to avoid the chaotic scenes that marred some of the relay venues elsewhere ahead of next month’s visit by President Hu Jintao, the first to Japan by a Chinese president in a decade.

“I ran hoping for the Beijing Olympics to be successful and peaceful,” said Japanese Olympic gold medallist marathon runner Mizuki Noguchi, after lighting the flame on the podium at the end of the relay.

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NAGANO, Japan (AFP) — Protesters Friday waved the Tibetan flag and denounced China’s rulers as the Beijing Olympic torch came to Japan for the latest leg of a worldwide relay marred by demonstrations.

Japan, which is trying to repair uneasy ties with China, has promised tight security for the torch run on Saturday through the central mountain town of Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Tomonori Hirose, 32, came to Nagano from the western city of Osaka with a megaphone and a homemade Tibetan flag, saying he was outraged by China’s crackdown on fellow Buddhists who demonstrated in Tibet last month.

“I want to shout something out tomorrow at the relay runners, like, ‘Shame on you!'” he said.

As torch-bearers rolled into Nagano, hundreds of Falun Gong supporters marched with a loud brass band through the city’s streets to condemn China’s leadership, which considers the spiritual movement an “evil cult.”

“Stop the mass murder by the Chinese Communist Party,” read a banner held by marchers in yellow Falun Gong T-shirts, who were closely watched by dozens of police.

Separately, at least two demonstrators unfurled Tibetan flags as the Chinese torch delegation stopped at a highway rest area on its way to Nagano, 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of Tokyo.

China wants the Beijing Olympics to symbolise the country’s rising clout on the international stage and has been outraged by major protests during the torch relay, particularly chaotic scenes in London and Paris.

A chartered plane emblazoned with the slogan, “Journey of Harmony,” flew the torch into Tokyo from Australia early in the morning.

“I am confident that the Beijing Olympics torch relay will be a success,” said Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to Japan.

He was handed the torch as Chinese embassy officials chanted in chorus, “Success to the Olympics, Fight, Beijing!”

An association of Chinese students studying in Japan said on its website it was organising buses for up to 2,000 people to head to Nagano to support the Olympics and “promote friendship between China and Japan.”

The relay comes to Nagano at a time when Japan is trying to repair ties with China, which have remained uneasy due to the legacy of Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to travel to Tokyo in early May in only the second visit ever to Japan by a Chinese head of state, the culmination of two years of fence-mending efforts.

“We hope that the relay will be carried out in a peaceful manner and an atmosphere in which everybody can celebrate,” Japan’s chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.

Japan was abruptly forced to change the torch relay’s course after a revered seventh-century Buddhist temple last week backed out of plans to be the starting point due to concerns over Tibet.

The Zenkoji temple instead plans to hold a Buddhist prayer ceremony to mourn people killed in Tibet as the relay sets off from a parking lot.

Japan plans to shut out the public from all stopping points during the 18.7-kilometre (11.5-mile) relay and is reportedly deploying some 3,000 police.

“Police will do their best to ensure safety,” said Shinya Izumi, Japan’s top security official.

But he said Japan will not accept the involvement of China’s specially trained crack unit of torch guards, whose brusque treatment of demonstrators have caused tension in previous relay legs.

Sachiko Maruyama, 64, who runs a fruit shop along the relay route, said that police stopped by a day earlier telling her to remove anything that could be used as a projectile.

“Initially, I was looking forward and I wanted to welcome the torch. But now, I’m not sure what will happen,” she said with a worried look.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian leg of the Olympic torch relay began Thursday amid large crowds and tight security to prevent disruptions by protesters. At least two people were detained as supporters and detractors of China’s government faced off in minor scuffles before the start.

Organizers of Australia’s portion of the relay worried that chaotic demonstrations that marred the event elsewhere could be repeated.

Protests of China’s human rights record and its crackdown on anti-government activists in Tibet have turned the relay into a contentious issue for the Olympic movement. Many countries have changed routes and boosted security along the flame’s six-continent journey to the Aug. 8-24 games in Beijing.

People carrying Chinese flags appeared to strongly outnumber those carrying Tibetan flags or placards supporting independence for the territory or criticizing Beijing’s human rights record.

Television footage showed dozens of China supporters facing off against a group carrying blue-colored flags representing the China’s Muslim minority Uighurs. Minor scuffling broke out as officials sought to separate the two groups into different areas of the park. Police said two people were arrested.

In one of the strongest displays of Chinese nationalism seen in Melbourne, about 3000 pro-Chinese Olympic torch relay supporters tonight boarded more than 50 buses destined for Canberra and the Australian leg of the troubled Beijing Olympic torch relay.

The crowd of mostly Chinese students, carrying flags and wearing pro-China T-shirts, boarded buses outside the Telstra Dome for the 10-hour drive to Canberra to witness tomorrow’s torch relay through the capital.

Despite suggestions the Chinese Embassy in Melbourne had organised the convoy, there was little sense of impending trouble between the crowd and any pro-Tibet demonstrators who might try a repeat of the ugly torch relay scenes in London and Paris.

“We are going there to celebrate the torch,”  post-graduate student Bin Hua told The Age.

Former deputy lord mayor Wellington Lee, a fourth generation Chinese, was among a sprinkling of older Chinese who joined the convoy.

He said he joined the group to show solidarity.

“The Press hasn’t been kind to China. More than that, it has been pretty anti-China,” he said.

Organisers insisted there was no Chinese Embassy involvement in the protest, but Deakin University academic Damien Kingsbury told The Age it was most likely.

“It’s almost impossible that the Chinese Embassy is not involved in some way,” he said.