For Immediate Release
Olympic ‘Torch of Shame’ launched in Greece as calls grow to pull Tibet from route
(Montreal, Monday, 24 March 2008) – As China continued to keep Tibet on military lockdown, the Beijing Olympic Torch was lit in Olympia, Greece today, launching the four and a half month relay. The relay organizers plan to take the torch through the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham, now annexed into China's Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu provinces. Tibetans warn that the torch is likely to provoke more unrest inside Tibet, leading to more heavy-handed suppression by Chinese authorities and further imprisonment, torture and loss of life for Tibetans, and are calling for the Tibet stops to be cancelled.
"The Chinese government's plan to run the Olympic Torch through Tibet and up Tibet's Mt. Everest is an attempt to proclaim their ownership of Tibet to the world," said CTC executive director Dermod Travis. "Carrying this torch through Tibet is almost certain to provoke more protests against Chinese rule, and the Chinese government will respond again with military force, causing yet more suffering for Tibetans."
On March 18th, Tibetans hand-delivered a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that was signed by 150 Tibet support organizations – under the umbrella of the International Tibet Support Network – demanding that the IOC "immediately remove Tibet from the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay route." They also called on IOC President Jacques Rogge to make a public statement of concern about the current situation in Tibet. Despite receiving more than 10,000 faxes echoing these demands, the IOC insists that the torch relay will go ahead according to plan.
"Bringing China’s Olympic Torch to Tibet as hundreds or thousands of Tibetans are suffering torture and imprisonment and others are mourning their dead is an insult to the values the Olympic Torch is meant to stand for,” said Travis. “Does the IOC really want to be complicit in China’s brutal suppression of Tibetans?”
Protests continue inside Tibet with reports of students from the Tibetan Language Department of Qinghai Institute for Nationalities staging a sit-in on the campus. In the lead up to the new midnight March 25th deadline for protesters to turn themselves in, there has been a massive build-up of Chinese troops in Tibet and the ethnically Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu provinces. Meanwhile, all foreign journalists continue to be barred from Tibet, in violation of China’s promise that freedom of press would be respected in the lead up to and during the Olympics.
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For more information:
Dermod Travis, Executive Director
Canada Tibet Committee