Monday, April 7, 2008

Olympic torch put out

Protests over China's crackdown on Tibet forced organisers in Paris to put the Olympic torch on a bus on Monday to protect it from demonstrators. Security officials extinguished the Olympic torch amid heavy protests.

Despite massive security, at least two activists got within almost an arm's length of the flame before they were grabbed by police. Officers tackled many protesters and carried off some of them. A protester threw water at the torch but failed to extinguish it and was also taken away.

Police escorted the flame onto a bus, apparently to move it away from protesters. The flame was being carried out of a Paris traffic tunnel by an athlete in a wheelchair when it was stopped because protesters booed and began chanting ‘Tibet’.

It was the second time Monday that officials extinguished the torch amid protests. The procession was apparently being continued on board a bus.


"Boycott Chinese goods" and "Save Tibet" read some of the banners held by the demonstrators, watched by police in riot gear and prevented by barriers from getting near the course.

"We are doing our best but it will take the world to put pressure on China to help bring democracy and human rights to Tibet," said Phurbu Dolker, a 21-year-old Tibetan refugee.

Thousands of protesters waving Tibetan flags and shouting "Shame on China" tried to disrupt the torch's run through London on Sunday, the British leg of the international relay billed by Beijing as the "harmonious journey".

The Olympic flame is expected to remain a magnet for anti-Chinese protests ahead of the August Games in Beijing. The flame is due to return to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days before it will be used to light the cauldron at the Olympic opening ceremony.

Chinese Reaction

China has condemned the demonstrations that disrupted the Olympic torch relay in London. An official quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency described it as "vile behaviour".

People in Beijing also gave their reaction. "If they have some political appeals, they can express it in other ways," said one man. "Instead they create some a disturbance to the Olympic torch relay. I don't agree with the way they did it."

Another resident said: "I think a small group of people are trying to create some disturbances and affect the unity of the Chinese people, making use of the Olympics, as they know the games grab world attention."

Commentators say the flame is expected to remain a magnet for anti-Chinese protests ahead of the Games.

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