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Anti-China protests worldwide as Olympics begin

Date: Monday, 11-August-2008
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The Associate Press (AP)
August 8, 2008

LONDON (AP) -- An anti-China protester set himself on fire outsidethe Chinese Embassy in the Turkish capital and demonstrators raisedthe Tibetan flag Friday in defiance in London in protests worldwidetimed to coincide with the start of the Beijing Olympics.

In Ankara, a demonstrator suffered second-degree burns after settinghimself on fire during a rally by several hundred ethnic Uighurs,officials said. He was identified as a 35-year-old from Turkey'slocal Uighur community, an ethnic minority in China seekingindependence or greater autonomy.

In Katmandu, Nepal's capital, thousands of Tibetan exilesdemonstrated at the Chinese Embassy, shouting, "China, thief: Leaveour country. Stop killing in Tibet."

Police forcibly dispersed the protesters, some of whom tried to stormthe embassy, police official Ramesh Thapa said. More than 1,000people were detained for violating a ban on demonstrations ? thelargest number of Tibetans detained in a single day in Katmandu.

More than 2,000 protesters marched in Dharmsala, a north Indian hilltown that is home to the Tibetan government-in-exile and the DalaiLama, Tibet's spiritual leader.

In China, three Americans who planned to hold Tibetan flags duringthe opening ceremony were detained by police as they traveled toBeijing National Stadium, Students for a Free Tibet executivedirector Lhadon Tethong said.

While the spectacle of the opening ceremonies was broadcast on largescreens in London's Trafalgar Square, the Chinese Embassy was thefocus for protesters railing against the country's treatment ofpeople in Tibet, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

"The Olympics shouldn't have been offered to China on the basis oftheir human rights record," said Liawang Tsang, whose family fledTibet nine years ago. "But from this, there have been positives asthe attention of the world is now on China and their human rightsrecord is in the spotlight."

About 300 people gathered in front of the embassy, most wearing redheadbands in memory of people killed in Tibet. They demonstrated amida sea of flags, and were accompanied by a Buddhist monk. A smallcounter-demonstration of about a dozen people took place around thecorner from the embassy.

Hundreds in Brussels joined the global protest, with fivedemonstrators standing outside the European Union headquarters withOlympic rings around their necks, bloodstained bandages on theirheads and their wrists bound in chains to call for a free Tibet.

The Beijing Games have become a focus for activists critical of Chinaon issues ranging from its human rights record and heavy-handed rulein Tibet, to its abortion policies and repression of the Falun Gongspiritual movement.

Beijing considers the Olympic Games a huge source of national prideand is doing all it can to make sure they go off without a hitch ?such as ugly television images of protesters scuffling with police.

In China, authorities were on their highest alert in the final hoursbefore the opening ceremony, guarding against anyone who might try totake the shine off the curtain raiser watched worldwide. Beijing'slandmark Tiananmen Square was sealed off. Foreigners who haveprotested in recent days were deported, and Chinese who did the samewere in custody.

In semiautonomous Hong Kong, Briton Matt Pearce was detained afterunfurling two banners on a major bridge. Wearing a mask of a horse'shead and a white shirt bearing the Olympic rings, Pearce hung bannersreading: "We want human rights and democracy" and "The people ofChina want freedom from oppression."

Hong Kong police said he was being held for questioning on a possiblecharge of causing a public nuisance.

Forty other protesters chanted slogans urging China to democratizenear one of the venues for the Olympic equestrian event, to be heldin Hong Kong.

Tibet activists have stepped up their international campaign againstChinese rule in their homeland since demonstrations erupted in theTibetan capital in March and Beijing responded with a military crackdown.

Those protests were some of the biggest against almost 50 years ofChinese rule. Many Tibetans insist they were an independent nationbefore Communist troops invaded in 1950, while Beijing says theHimalayan region has been part of its territory for centuries.

Associated Press writers Dikky Sinn in Beijing; Binaj Gurubacharya inKatmandu, Nepal; Min Lee in Hong Kong, Burhan Ozbilici in Ankara,Turkey; and Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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