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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Shaven head was Tibet protest, says Polish medalist

August 26, 2008

The Express India
August 23, 2008

Warsaw, Aug 23 -- Poland's Olympic silver medal-winning weightlifter
Szymon Kolecki has indicated that he had held a subtle pro-Tibet
protest at the Beijing Games by shaving his head before his event.

A protest group, Students for a Free Tibet, had said Kolecki's
decision to swap his normally shaggy haircut for a bald look ahead of
Sunday's 94kg competition was a sign of solidarity with Tibet's
shaven-headed Buddhist monks.

Although Kolecki declined to confirm that directly, he left little
doubt about his motives. "I take a regular interest in world affairs
and all the important news, including about Tibet. But I'm meant to
respect the Olympic Charter," 26-year-old Kolecki said on Thursday
after returning from China. "Let's just say that shaving my head was
a symbol," he said.

The International Olympic Committee's document, which lays down the
rules for the Games, says that "no kind of demonstration or
political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic
sites, venues or other areas".

One of the leaders of the Polish branch of Students for a Free Tibet,
Witek Hebanowski, said that he had been in touch with Kolecki before
the Games. Hebanowski said the athlete had explained he was looking
for a way to hold a protest.

Ahead of the Games, several dozen athletes had signed an open letter
to China's President Hu Jintao calling for freedom of speech and
religion in China, notably in Tibet, as well as the release of jailed
human rights campaigners and an end to capital punishment.

But Kolecki's gesture appears to be the first protest action by an
athlete actually at the Games against China's communist rulers, who
have been accused by pro-Tibet groups of carrying out a bloody
crackdown in the Himalayan region.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 and officially "liberated" it
the following year. Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled into
exile in India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet and
of fomenting unrest. He insists he wants autonomy and religious
freedom rather than independence, and has said he supports the
Beijing Olympics.

Kolecki also took silver at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, as well as
coming second in two world championships and winning the European
title five times.
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