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Australian athletes offered Olympics "rights" pack
Reuters[Tuesday, July 15, 2008 00:48]
By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA, July 14 - Australian athletes and supporters wanting to support Tibetan independence and human rights at the Beijing Olympics were on Monday offered "rights" packs, but warned they could upset Chinese authorities.

The activist Australia Tibet Council said it had responded to an unspecified number of requests from athletes for material to support Tibetan freedom claims by producing packs containing t-shirts, badges, stickers and temporary tattoos.

"Going right back to March, people have been approaching us and asking how they can help Tibet in Beijing," campaign coordinator Simon Bradshaw told Reuters, declining to name any high-profile athletes asking to take part.

But Bradshaw said the resource packs could be confiscated from athletes and spectators at the airport entering China, warning they may "face consequences."

Bradshaw and former Australian Olympic swimmer Michelle Engelsman showed a green and yellow T-shirt reading: "I support human rights," written in both Mandarin and English.

The carefully-chosen wording made no mention of Tibet, avoiding it did not violate the Olympic charter prohibiting political and racial propaganda, Bradshaw said.

Engelsman said she hoped at least some athletes would wear their t-shirt once they finished competing in events.

Australian cyclist Cadel Evans, currently placed second and favorite to win the Tour de France, is one prominent Australian athlete who has worn "Free Tibet" t-shirts under competition clothing, exposing it at times during lead-up races.

Evans sponsors a Tibetan child, has "free Tibet" links on his website and unveiled the t-shirt with the Tibetan independence flag during the April Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, in a move likely to prompt close scrutiny from Chinese officials in Beijing.

The packs also contained information about the Tibet issue and China's crackdown on anti-government riots in March.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said Filipino rights activists had mailed about 20,000 letters to China, calling on officials to free political prisoners, allow a free press and abolish internet censorship ahead of the Games.

Aurora Paring, head of the group's local chapter, said the letters were part of a global "million signatures" campaign to remind China of its commitment to promote human rights during the Olympics.

(Additional reporting by Manny Megaton in Manila; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
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