BEIJING/PARIS (Reuters) – Thedescended into chaos in Paris on Monday with officials having to extinguish the flame and carry it by bus when pro-Tibet protesters tried to seize it.
Chinese authorities condemned as “vile” the growing campaign by activists to use the buildup to theas a stage on which to condemn ‘s record in Tibet, on human rights in general and attack its foreign policy.
They said there would be no change to the elaborate ritual of carrying the flame around the world.
The Paris torch relay hit trouble almost as soon as it set off from the, and was repeatedly halted by protesters who threatened to break through the imposing security cordon thrown around the athletes carrying the flame.
The torch had to be extinguished at least twice and sheltered in a bus on several occasions from the thousands of demonstrators. A Chinese official was quoted byas saying it was put out for safety reasons.
Demonstrators carried banners declaring “Boycott Chinese goods” and “Save Tibet.”
“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.
Police detained 18 protesters, the Interior Ministry said.
Embarrassed Chinese organizers cancelled a reception for the torch atat the last minute after a banner supporting human rights was hung from the facade, Paris mayor Bernard Delanoe told reporters.
“The Chinese officials decided they would not stop here because they were put out by Parisian citizens expressing their support for human rights. It is their responsibility,” he said.
It was a second consecutive day of chaos for the torch run.
Thousands of protesters waving Tibetan flags and shouting “Shame on China” turned Sunday’s British leg of the international relay billed byas the “harmonious journey” into an obstacle course. Police detained 35 people.
The torch arrives on Wednesday in, where three pro-Tibet activists scaled the cables of the city’s famed and hung protest banners on Monday. “One World, One ,” read one of them.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said he was very concerned “with the international situation and what’s happened in Tibet.”
“Violence for whatever reason is not compatible with the values of the torch relay and the,” he said in a speech to the Association of (ANOC) in Beijing. “Some people have played with the idea of boycotts. As I speak today, there is no momentum for a general boycott.”
UNREST IN TIBET
“A tiny number of Tibet independence elements sought to disrupt the relay of the Olympic Games sacred flame through,” Xinhua quoted a spokesperson for the torch relay office as saying of the London events.
“We strongly condemn this vile behavior.”
Beijing Organizing Committee Director of Media and Communications Wang Hui told a news conference:
“The smooth progress of the torch relay cannot be stopped and will definitely be a big success.”
Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, was hit last month by Buddhist monks’ protests against Chinese rule which gave way to rioting. Since then security forces have poured in to reimpose control there and in other restive Tibetan areas.
Exiled Tibetans accuseof systematic oppression of the Himalayan region over decades, and of the killing, torture and unjust imprisonment of those who oppose Beijing’s rule.
CALLS FOR BOYCOTT
U.S. Democratic presidential candidateurged on Monday to boycott the unless China improves human rights.
Clinton, in a statement, cited clashes in Tibet and the lack of pressure by China on Sudan to stop “the.”
Bush has resisted pressure to change his plans to attend.
As well as Tibet, activists are also focusing on Sudan, where critics say Beijing has not done enough to help stop violence in.
The U.N. children’s agencysaid on Monday it had withdrawn from the North leg of the Olympic torch run because it would not help draw attention to the plight of children in North Korea.
China accuses Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader, the, of organizing the unrest. chief Zhang Qingli has called him a “jackal in Buddhist monk’s robes.”
Chinese popular opinion backs official claims that followers of thetimed the unrest to disrupt the games. He has denied this and said he wants autonomy, not independence.
Speaking at a Beijing news conference after meeting Chinese Premier, Prime Minister said she had called on China to reopen dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
China says 19 people died in the Lhasa unrest, mostly at the hands ofrioters. Representatives of the Dalai Lama say about 140 people died in broader unrest across and nearby areas, most of them Tibetans killed by .