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Cancel Olympic torch relay in Tibet: Dalai Lama's envoy
AFP[Friday, April 04, 2008 06:30]
by P. Parameswaran
Thu Apr 3

WASHINGTON(AFP) - A special envoy of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, called on Beijing Thursday to cancel plans to carry the Olympic torch through Tibet, saying it was a "provocative" move after the Chinese crackdown of protests in the Himalayan territory.

"This idea of taking the torch through Tibet, I really think, should be cancelled precisely because that would be very deliberately provocative and very insulting after what has happened," envoy Lodi Gyari told a US congressional hearing.

Pro-Tibet protesters had earlier demanded the Olympic torch be kept out of the Himalayan territory as part of the scheduled 130-day relay itinerary, saying carrying the flame there could trigger more unrest.

The torch will pass through Tibet for the Everest leg in May, and then again when it goes through Lhasa in June. Chinese officials have already pledged tight security for the Tibetan legs.

But Gyari told American lawmakers that if the Chinese authorities went ahead with the torch run in Tibet, it "would bring more adverse publicity" to the Olympic Games in Beijing.

He said the International Olympic Committee, if they wanted the games to be successful, "should tell China, 'Look that stretch of relay through Tibet needs to be cancelled.'

"Under the present circumstances, it would be really very insulting to the sentiment of the Tibetan people," said Gyari, who had led the Dalai Lama's delegation in six rounds of talks so far with the Chinese authorities to press for "meaningful autonomy" in Tibet.

Protests in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on March 10 to mark a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule escalated into widespread rioting in the city, which then spread to neighboring Chinese provinces populated by Tibetans.

Beijing says rioters killed 18 civilians and two police officers. Exiled Tibetan leaders have put the death toll from the Chinese crackdown at 135-140 Tibetans, with another 1,000 injured and many detained.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of trying to take the Olympic Games "hostage" over Tibet, a charge which the spiritual leader calls "baseless."

The Dalai Lama had openly said that he supported the games hosted by China.

Gyari said China must bear full responsibility for the bloody turmoil in Tibet as he had warned in all the negotiations with Beijing so far that the Chinese authorities should not push Tibetans to their limits.

"What is happening in Tibet, the Chinese government must bear full responsibility. At every meeting in the last six years I told the Chinese, 'Please, you are pushing our people to the limits. If you continue pushing this policy, an unfortunate situation can happen."

"But they did not listen," Gyari said, accusing Beijing of "marginalization of the people Tibet" even though it was supposed to an autonomous region.

"Tibet has become, particularly in the last few weeks, in every sense, an occupied province, brutally occupied" by the Chinese military, he said. "The Chinese communist party is running our monasteries."

Gyari urged US legislators to press Beijing to allow the United States to set up a permanent diplomatic mission in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, as required under US law.

Under the Tibetan Policy Act signed into law by US President George W. Bush in 2002, the State Department "should make best efforts to establish an office in Lhasa to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet."

He also urged the US Congress to send an urgent mission to look into the plight of the Tibetans, some of whom he said were not give access to medical treatment after suffering injuries during Beijing's crackdown.

House of Representatives Republican lawmaker Chris Smith, who chaired the hearing, said he had introduced a resolution in the House urging the Chinese government to "provide details of each Tibetan arrested and allow access by diplomats and international observers to their trials."
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