Trouble Follows the Torch

In several previous posts I discussed the intense controversy surrounding the upcoming Beijing Olympics. In recent weeks the traditional international journey of the Olympic Torch has served as a flash point for clashes between supporters and protesters.
Ironically, this torch relay was supposed to be the largest in Olympic history—a showcase of international cooperation and sport. Instead, it has become a testament to international outrage over China’s human rights abuses, especially over Tibet.
March 31: A huge carefully scripted ceremony at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square sent the torch off across the globe

April 3:
In Istanbul, Turkey, the Uighur expat community staged demonstrations against Chinese persecution of their “brother” expats in Xinjiang. In February 2007, for example, an Uigur activist named Ismail Semed, was executed on the shaky grounds of attempting to “split the motherland” and possessing explosives.
April 6: Massive clashes occurred between Free Tibet protesters and police during the London relay. Thirty-seven protesters were arrested including a man who tried to snatch the torch away from one of the runners. Another tried to put out the torch with a fire extinguisher.
April 7: In Paris, massive protests forced organizers to cancel the final third of the relay—transporting the flame by bus to the end point. Activists succeeded in hanging Tibetan flags and black banners from the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

April 9:
In San Francisco, thousands of protesters—both Chinese Americans supporting the games and human rights activists–surrounded the torch. Fearing violence, officials cut the planned route in half and changed it—meaning that at several points runners were waiving to near-empty streets.
The Buenos Aires, Argentina relay on April 11th and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on April 13th were comparatively peaceful and well managed.
April 16: In Islamabad, Pakistan, the relay was moved from the streets to a local stadium open solely to officials and invited guests.
April 18: In India, officials sealed off the huge city of New Delhi hours before the relay and arrested 276 protesters in an effort to protect the event. Heavy security surrounded the runners turning the traditionally celebratory event into a fairly dismal occasion.

April 19:
The relay route was comparatively quite in Bangkok, Thailand thanks to the official warning that Tibetan exiles who disrupted the proceedings would be deported.
On Monday, April 21, the torch will travel through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and then Jakarta, Indonesia on April 22. The torch will then travel through Canberra, Australia on April 24th where anxious officials have been mapping out security precautions since the first signs of unrest in Europe. They have erected steel fences along the 12.4-mile relay route.
On May 4th the Everest part of the relay will commence with the relay going up the Nepal side and down the north face into Tibet. Nepalese soldiers have been given permission to use any force necessary—including firing shots– to prevent protesters from stopping the relay.
Stay tuned for further updates.

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