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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."

Japan to allow pro-Tibet protests

April 23, 2008

By Patrice Novotny, AFP
Apr 22, 2008

TOKYO - Japan will allow pro-Tibet protests when the Olympic torch
arrives this weekend, marking a change from recent legs of the relay,
but will limit the rallies’ size, officials and activists said today.

Demonstrators plan a ceremony at a famed Buddhist temple, which backed
out of plans to be the starting point for Saturday’s relay, to mourn
victims of China’s recent crackdown in Tibet.

"Protesting doesn’t pose any particular problem," Japanese Foreign
Minister Masahiko Komura told reporters.

He warned, however, that police would intervene if violence broke out at
the relay in Nagano, a central mountain town that hosted the 1998 Winter

Akemi Takahashi, a member of Students for a Free Tibet Japan, said
Nagano police had told the group that it would only allow rallies of
"around five people" near the torch.

Police told demonstrators that areas near the relay route "will be
occupied by activities of the IOC" (International Olympic Committee),
she told AFP. "We have the right to make big demonstrations, but not
close to the relay route," she said.

Kyodo News, quoting local officials, said that hotels in Nagano have
also been asked to keep a close eye on the identification of foreign guests.

The latest relay legs have been run amid high security following chaotic
protest scenes in Western cities, particularly London and Paris.

On the torch’s Asian journey, Indonesian police on today broke up a
peaceful rally by pro-Tibet demonstrators in Jakarta.

A day earlier, police in Kuala Lumpur said they detained a Japanese
family waving Tibetan flags at the relay who had been hit by Chinese
nationals with plastic batons.

High-profile protestor Robert Menard, head of Paris-based Reporters
Without Borders, is planning to come to Japan to hold a rally.

Menard and two others disrupted the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece by
unfurling a banner with Olympic rings replaced by handcuffs, setting the
stage for demonstrations throughout the torch relay.

Justice Minister Yukio Hatoyama denied reports that Japan was
considering barring Menard from entering the country. "If he had
received a criminal sentence, it would be a different story, but as of
now there are no grounds to discuss denying him entry," Hatoyama told

Japan has been trying to repair ties with China, which are uneasy due in
part to memories of Japanese aggression. Chinese President Hu Jintao is
due to pay a rare visit to Tokyo from May 6.

The Japan Buddhist Federation, the nation’s largest Buddhist body, gave
a letter to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Tuesday calling for a swift
resolution to problems in Tibet, which last month saw the biggest
protests in nearly two decades against China’s controversial rule.

"We, Japanese Buddhist monks, feel deep sorrow over the serious
situation in which clashes in (Tibet capital) Lhasa and its vicinity
have caused many casualties," Daijo Toyohara, head of the association,
said in the letter.

"I would like you to make efforts to reach a humanitarian resolution as
soon as possible through peaceful dialogue without the use of force," he

Buddhist monks said yesterday that they would hold a ceremony of
mourning for Tibetans on Saturday at the seventh-century Zenkoji temple,
which backed out of being the starting point for the relay.
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