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Thousands in anti-China protests as Olympic epic opens

August 10, 2008

Agence France-Presse
August 8, 2008

LONDON -- Thousands of people in Asia and Europe took part in human
rights protests Friday as China launched the Beijing Olympics with a
dazzling, three-hour opening ceremony.

Demonstrators took to the streets of cities including London,
Brussels, Berlin, Kathmandu, Bangkok and Hong Kong on issues ranging
from the crackdown in Tibet to Beijing's support for the military
junta in Myanmar.

China has painted the Games as a celebration of three decades of
economic reforms and hopes it will showcase a rapidly modernizing country.

But activists across the world are using them to pressure Beijing
over its rule of Tibet and heavily Muslim Xinjiang province, the
arrests of dissidents, censorship and concerns about Chinese foreign policy.

At least 1,000 Tibetans including scores of monks and nuns were
arrested during a protest against Beijing's rule of the Himalayan region.

Demonstrators shouted "Shame shame, Hu Jintao," referring to the
Chinese president, and "Tibet belongs to Tibetans" before being taken
away by police.

"We want to give the millions of people who will watch the opening as
well as the hundreds of athletes taking part the message that there
are no human rights in Tibet," Tibetan student Tashi Tsering, 20,
told AFP in Kathmandu.

In Ankara a protestor tried to set himself alight outside China's
embassy as some 300 Chinese Muslim refugees rallied to denounce human
rights violations in their home region of Xinjiang.

The man in his 30s burned his face and hands before police intervened
and extinguished the flames.

Earlier in the day, Reporters Without Borders hacked into Chinese
airwaves to broadcast a 20-minute program in Chinese, English and
French at 8:08 am (0008 GMT) -- exactly 12 hours before the opening
ceremony in Beijing.

The French-based media rights group said it was the first of its kind
in China since the communists seized power in 1949.

In London, around 300 protestors gathered opposite the Chinese
embassy, many of them Tibetan exiles wearing red headbands bearing
one word: "Killed".

And in Brussels, around 200 Tibetan protesters, some chained together
or wearing 'bloody' bandages, protested near the headquarters of
European Union institutions.

"The blood continues to flow in Tibet," said organizer Nyima
Chushisu, as she put bandages on a fellow demonstrator.

Dozens of Reporters Without Borders campaigners gathered outside the
Chinese embassy in Berlin brandishing placards saying China was a
"prison" for journalists.

More than 60 protesters rallied outside Myanmar's embassy in the Thai
capital Bangkok to demand that China end its support for the ruling
junta in Yangon.

US President George W. Bush, in Beijing for the opening ceremony,
hailed the growing relationship between the United States and China,
even as he urged Beijing to accept greater freedom of expression and religion.

"I strongly believe societies that allow the free expression of ideas
tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful," Bush told
reporters at the official opening of the new US embassy in the Chinese capital.

"I will continue to be candid about our mutual global responsibilities."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy for his part told French television
he discussed human rights with Chinese leaders in Beijing and handed
them lists of jailed dissidents.

But in Paris RSF said police were keeping protestors away from the
Chinese embassy even though the group won a court order overturning a
police ban on demonstrations outside the building.

In Hong Kong, a British man was arrested after climbing on to the
city's largest bridge and unfurling two protest banners that read:
"The People of China want freedom from oppression" and "We want human
rights and democracy."

Matt Pearce climbed up the Tsing Yi Bridge wearing a horse costume --
a nod to the Olympic equestrian events being held in Hong Kong -- and
carrying a guitar, an Agence France-Presse photographer saw.
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