Update, 12:04 p.m. In a reversal, Chinese officials announced that the next leg of the relay will be “simplified, downscaled and open with a minute of silence,” according to the A.P.
Original Post Throughout its “year of trouble” — The Associated Press’s term for China’s string of natural and manmade disasters — the Chinese government has remained determined to pull off the perfect Olympic Games.
One of the most visible struggles, of course, has been the torch relay leading up to the games — a journey so fraught with resistance that Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee chief, was forced at one point to dismiss speculation that it might be canceled. The torch proceeded as scheduled, though its trail skewed away from protesters at several points.
Back in China, the torch is facing more protests from the country’s own people after the homecoming leg of the relay continued uninterrupted a day after the country’s biggest earthquake since 1976. More than 12,000 have been killed.
According to Agence France-Presse, an internet outcry erupted after the official Xinhua news agency published jubilant photographs of the torch’s arrival today in the southeastern province of Fujian, its 12th domestic stop:
Posting the committee’s main telephone number on Sina.com, a popular web portal, one resident of northern Hubei province said, “all Chinese should ring them up and condemn them for being so inhuman.”
A resident of Fujian said the relay should be canceled and the money saved should be sent to help quake victims.
“I think this whole wasteful relay should be scrapped — let’s show a little humanity,’ the post said.
The Associated Press added that “traffic on Chinese-language Web sites and blogs overwhelmingly favored some kind of moratorium — either now or next month.”
But Chinese officials are publicly defending the decision to go forward, while expressing condolences for the earthquake’s victims. “The earthquake-stricken area is not on the route of the torch relay, so the relay will go on as scheduled,” Li Zhanjun, a Beijing Olympic spokesman, told Xinhua. “We have not received any instruction to stop the relay.”
Another official, speaking anonymously to The A.P., said that a pause was being considered.
In either case, President Hu Jintao of China remained focused on the disaster. In Xinhua’s top news article, he is quoted declaring that response to the quake was the government’s top priority.
Aside from short-term decisions, the government will face another test next month, when the disaster and the torch relay are set to cross paths. On June 18, the beleaguered symbol of the Beijing Games will arrive in Chengdu, the capital of the province hit hardest by the quake.