Saturday, March 29, 2008


Excerpt from the Globe and Mail

March 29, 2008

LONDON -- This was supposed to be China's week. The launch of the longest Olympic torch relay in history was heralded in the Chinese press as a spectacle that would bring the nation glory, until Monday, when editors of Beijing's newspapers struggled to edit blood-covered Tibetan protesters out of photos of the torch-lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece.

China's week has become Tibet's moment. Tibetans and their supporters are being driven by the belief that this Olympic year and its vast media attention are a last opportunity to challenge Beijing's rule. It now looks like activists have succeeded in making China's 57-year occupation of the territory the dominant issue of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Behind this dramatic capture of the world's attention are three young women from British Columbia, who have spent much of the seven years since China won the Games organizing thousands of international volunteers and hundreds of Tibet-related organizations into a six-month campaign of stealth activism intended to humiliate China before an international audience.

Standing just to the edge of the TV cameras in Greece on Monday was Kate Woznow, a 28-year-old Vancouverite who organized the day's attention-grabbing interventions - blood-covered Tibetans lay down in front of the torch carrier during the lighting ceremony - from the offices of Students for a Free Tibet in New York, where she runs the Olympic-related campaign:

"We realized seven years ago, when China got the Olympics, what an incredible opportunity this would be to shine a spotlight on the terrible treatment of Tibet," she said as she arrived in London to organize a day of demonstrations to coincide with the torch's arrival in Beijing on Monday.

Olympic developments

Not attending

German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday announced she has decided not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, confirmed that Ms. Merkel was staying away. Poland's Donald Tusk and the Czech Republic's Vaclav Klaus had previously announced they had declined to attend the opening ceremonies.

Making an appeal

The European Union is appealing to China to resolve the crisis in Tibet through peaceful means. The appeal comes from foreign ministers of the EU's 27 countries, at a two-day meeting in Slovenia. The ministers say Tibet's cultural heritage must be respected. No officials at the EU meeting are asking for a full-blown boycott.

Blocking demonstrations

Greek authorities prevented more demonstrations against China's crackdown in Tibet yesterday as the Olympic flame headed for Athens and its symbolic handover to Beijing Games organizers. Echoing an increasingly tense week as the torch travelled around the country, police stopped 20 demonstrators putting up a banner in Volos, arresting one person. About 10 Danish activists were also blocked by police around 70 kilometres outside Larissa, again in central Greece.

Paying A visit

China yesterday allowed the first foreign diplomats to visit Tibet after deadly riots, as European nations appeared split on the idea of boycotting the Beijing Olympics opening. Two weeks after protests in the Himalayan region turned deadly, diplomats from 15 embassies, including those of the United States, Britain, France, Japan and Canada arrived in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, for a hastily arranged tour.

Calling for symbols

Former German Olympic medalists yesterday called for those competing in the 2008 Olympics to wear a specially designed green and blue bracelet to protest against human-rights violations by China in Tibet.

The four are Stefan Pfannmoller, a bronze medalist in the canoe at the 2004 Athens Game; former German handball star Stefan Kretzschmar, 1992 Olympic swimming champion Dagmar Hase, and four-time Olympic rowing champion Katrin Boron. (more)

Sources: Associated Press, AFP, Reuters

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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