A protester tries to grab the torch from former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq. (Getty Images)
Reuters has cited Chinese state media reports on the identity of the Olympic torch protecters who were seen in blue tracksuits during the Paris and Londion legs of the Olympic Torch Relay.
According to Chinese state media the men in tracksuits are employed by BOCOG (the Beijing Olympic Organissing Committee) and were handpicked from the People's Armed Police (PAP) to form the "flame protection squad" last August. The squad is responsible for protection of the Olympic Torch during the Torch Relay.
The squad has generated huge controversy due to their heavy-handed tactics. One of the London torch-bearers, Konnie Huq, has said that she saw them pushing around British policemen during the London leg. Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 Games Organising Committee, described them as "thugs" according to the British media.
The People's Armed Police is a security force unit of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). It has been very active in putting down recent protests in Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign has received eyewitness accounts that the PAP have been involved in cases of brutality during the recent protests, including firing live ammunition into crowds of Tibetan protesters on April 3 in Grdze county in Sichuan province.
A police officer detains a pro-Tibet demonstrator along the route of the torch relay in London, in this April 6, 2008 file photo. The security agents wear blue tracksuits, but a military bearing hints at their true pedigree: They are members of China's paramilitary police force, dispatched from Beijing with a mission to protect torchbearers and ensure that the Olympic flame never goes out during its journey around the world.
(AP Photo/Ian Walton, File)
Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said: "It beggars belief that personnel from the PAP were allowed on to the streets of London at all, let alone that they were allowed to push Metroplitan Police around. They come from the same unit that shot dead in cold blood a Tibetan woman on the Nangpa-la Pass in September 2006 and the PAP has been very active in brutally putting down recent Tibetan protests inside Tibet, according to eyewitness statements received by Free Tibet Campaign. The British government must explain immediately who authorised this unit to scuffle with our own police, and whether the government knew that they came from the PAP when they were authorised to escort the flame on London's streets."