Thai Olympic torchbearer withdraws over China’s crackdown in Tibet
From Associated Press – One of Thailand’s torchbearers in the Olympics flame relay has withdrawn in protest over China’s recent crackdown on protesters in Tibet, a statement said on Sunday.
Ms Narisa Chakrabongse – one of the country’s six torchbearers, all of whom are environmental activists – said in an open letter she decided against taking part in the relay to ‘send a strong message to China that the world community could not accept its actions.’ Anti-government protests started in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on the March 10 anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule and turned violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans in three neighboring provinces.
Beijing’s official death toll from the rioting is now 22, but the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile has said 99 Tibetans have died.
‘The slaying of the Tibetans … is an outright violation of human rights,’ Ms Narisa wrote. ‘It happened two weeks before the Olympic torch bearer leaves Athens and five months before the Olympic Games. This reflects the Chinese government’s negligence of world sentiment.’ Tibetans and their supporters have protested in cities around the world against China, where the games will be staged.
Some fear the arrival of the Olympic torch – which arrives in Thailand in April en route to Beijing – could spark violent protests against China, while others are calling for heads of state, dignitaries and even corporate sponsors to boycott the Olympics, or at least the opening ceremony.