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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Battered Olympic tour to continue, but IOC chief rebukes China

April 11, 2008

By Andrew Jacobs
The International Herald Tribune
Thursday, April 10, 2008

BEIJING: The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques
Rogge, said Thursday that the Olympic torch would continue its
round-the-world tour, despite violent protests.

But he offered a rare rebuke to China, calling on Beijing authorities to
respect their "moral engagement" to improve human rights and to provide
news organizations with greater access ahead of the Summer Games.

Rogge's comments came as anti-Chinese political protests mounted and
calls increased around the world for a boycott of at least the opening
ceremonies of the Games. Chinese officials and overseas Chinese reacted
angrily and called the protests misguided.

Rogge, in surprisingly direct remarks to reporters, also faulted Beijing
for suppressing anti-government unrest in Tibet last month, saying its
use of violence was "an outdated method." His comments were a departure;
up to now he had strenuously avoided any mention of politics.

The Chinese government immediately rejected his remarks as unwanted

"I believe IOC officials support the Beijing Olympics and adherence to
the Olympic charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political
factors," Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told reporters.

Rogge described the protests that have dogged the torch relay as a
"crisis" for the organization. But he insisted that the skirmishes in
London, Paris and San Francisco would not derail the six-continent
pageant leading up to the Beijing Games in August.

"There is no scenario of interrupting or bringing the torch back to
Beijing," he said.

The chaos that has interrupted the torch relay and rattled the IOC came
as Beijing authorities announced the discovery of what they described as
a terrorist plan to disrupt the Olympics by kidnapping foreign
journalists, athletes and spectators.

Authorities said they arrested 35 people and confiscated explosives and
detonators belonging to a jihadist group based in Urumqi, the capital of
Xinjiang, in the country's far west, long a source of unrest among the
region's majority Muslim population.

In the past, officials have announced the unveiling of similar plots
without providing much evidence, perhaps, analysts say, as a means to
justify the suppression of separatist Uighurs.

Rogge condemned the protesters who have hounded torch bearers, but he
also called on Beijing to honor its pledges to improve human rights and
to give foreign journalists unfettered access.

"We will do our best to have this be realized," he said of a recent
Chinese regulation that guarantees reporters the right to travel to all
parts of the country, including Tibet, where access has been restricted
since the outbreak of violence last month.

One challenge arose immediately: The office of the UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said Thursday that China had rejected
her request to visit Tibet this month to look into the recent unrest,
Reuters reported from Geneva. It said the Chinese had offered a visit
"at a later date."

The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, again stated his
support Thursday for the Beijing Olympics, while insisting on the right
of nonviolent protesters to voice their opinions.

Indonesia said it would significantly shorten its leg of the Olympic
torch relay; Hong Kong said that it might make slight changes in its
torch route, and would deploy 3,000 police for security.

At a news conference, Rogge said he had met with Prime Minister Wen
Jiabao of China for an hour, but he revealed no details.

Olympic Committee members have been taken aback by the scope and
ferocity of the protests, which are marring what has traditionally been
a festive event. Although the protests in San Francisco were not as
disruptive as those in London and Paris, the torch's sole North American
visit was a disappointment to thousands of spectators after the relay
route was changed at the last minute.

The Olympic flame was taken Wednesday aboard an airplane bound for
Argentina, the next stop on a worldwide tour that ends with the opening
of the Olympics on Aug. 8.

Olympic Committee members offered harsh words for demonstrators, who
have used the relay to publicize issues ranging from Tibetan religious
freedom to environmental concerns. Gunilla Lindberg, vice president of
the IOC, likened some of them to terrorists.

"We will never give into violence," Lindberg said. "These are not the
friendly demonstrators for a free Tibet but professional demonstrators."

Despite the chaos, Rogge said he expected the Olympics to proceed
without a hitch. He cited the murder of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich in
1972 and boycotts in 1976, 1980 and 1984 as far more disruptive.

"It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that, but the IOC has weathered
many bigger storms," he said.

The Dalai Lama, during a brief stopover in Japan en route to the United
States, told reporters that no one should try to silence demonstrators
against Chinese rule in Tibet. At the same time, he struck a
conciliatory tone toward Beijing.

"We are not anti-Chinese. Right from the beginning, we supported the
Olympic Games," the Dalai Lama said. Speaking of pro-Tibetan protestors,
he said nobody "has the right to tell them to shut up." The unrest in
Tibet last month, the largest in the region in two decades, led to the
Chinese crackdown that has brought sympathy protests around the world, a
deep embarrassment to Beijing, which had hoped to use the Olympics to
showcase China's emergence onto the world stage.

The Dalai Lama said he was not behind the torch-related disturbances,
calling the Chinese claims "a serious allegation." "I really feel very
sad the government demonizes me," he said. "I am just a human. I am not
a demon."

In San Francisco, Americans' only chance to see the Olympic flame up
close became an elaborate game of hide-and-seek Wednesday, as city
officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners
with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport, for
a flight to Buenos Aires. A closing ceremony in San Francisco was
effectively canceled.

But a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing, Jiang Yu, declared the
San Francisco event a success.

"During the torch relay there we have seen lots of patriotic overseas
Chinese and local people who warmly welcomed the torch relay," she said.
"The torch will go ahead in spite of all the difficulties."

"This cannot be stopped by any forces," she added.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois called for President George W. Bush to
boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing, joining Obama's rival for the
Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in
doing so.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, said
that as president he would not attend the ceremony unless China improves
its human rights record "pretty quickly," but he did not call on Bush to
stay away. The president so far has said he does not want to mix
politics and sports.

Martin Fackler contributed reporting from Tokyo, Jesse McKinley from San
Francisco and Brian Knowlton from Washington.
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