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Australian police tussle with Chinese Olympic torch escorts

29 Comments

Australian police tussled with Chinese torch escorts as the Olympic flame was run through Canberra Thursday to noisy demonstrations by thousands of Chinese supporters and rival pro-Tibet protesters.

Several people were arrested on the sidelines while center-stage Australian police and the blue-and-white tracksuit-clad Chinese escorts physically played out a long running dispute over who was in charge of security.

On several occasions, Australian police pulled one of the Chinese escorts back from alongside the runner carrying the torch, until they appeared to reach a compromise as the relay continued on its 16-kilometer route, television footage showed.

On Wednesday, Chinese and Australian officials openly disagreed at a press conference about the role of the Chinese attendants, who were described by top British Olympic official Sebastian Coe during the London leg as "thugs."

The torch, symbol of the Beijing Games, is on the Oceania stretch of a world tour that began with protests in Greece when the flame was lit on March 24.

The flame then became the focus of international demonstrations against China's role in Tibet and the Olympic host's human rights record as it passed through Europe and the United States.

The Australian Federal Police said there had been five confirmed arrests during the relay but a number of other people had been detained and were "on their way to the watch-house."

Some of those arrested were pounced on by police as they tried to block the progress of the torch, witnesses said.

At the end of the relay, the last runner, former Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe, lit a cauldron with his torch.

Australian Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Tancred likened the tensions between Tibetan and Chinese protesters to the atmosphere at a football match.

"It's all been pretty good; we knew that there'd be protests but it's been peaceful in most places," he said.

Tancred said there had been a "massive turnout" from Australia's Chinese community.

"I think there's well over 10,000 members of the Chinese community who have descended on Canberra from both Melbourne and Sydney," he said.

"It's terrific to see they're in good spirits and that's what the Olympic torch is all about."

In the chilly dawn hours before the start of the relay, several thousand Chinese supporters gathered under national flags while a much smaller group of pro-Tibet demonstrators held their own banners.

Tibetan protesters chanted "Shame on China" and "Human Rights for Tibet" while Chinese supporters replied with "Stop Lying" and "One China Forever."

Organisers were repeatedly forced to warn the two groups to separate after some carrying Chinese flags attempted to surround the Tibetan group.

A Chinese flag was set on fire and police escorted away a pro-Tibetan supporter.

Jeremy Lasek, an official from the Australian Capital Territory's chief minister's office, urged supporters with Chinese flags to stay on one side, warning that "otherwise, this event is not going to happen.

"I appeal to you please, this is a city and country of peace, people with the red flags please stay on this side. This event is about peace, it's about the Olympic Games," he said.

Canberra Olympic relay committee chairman Ted Quinlan said the presence of a large number of pro-China visitors appeared to be a well organized move.

"We didn't expect this reaction from the Chinese community, which is obviously a well coordinated plan to take the day by weight of numbers," he said.

As the run got under way, an aircraft wrote "Free Tibet" with smoke in the sky above the route. Later another light aircraft towed a banner reading "Go Go Beijing Olympics" over the capital.

The flame's next stop is Japan.

© AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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Amazing, or maybe not. Country after country, regardless of whether it's Chinese visitors or multi generational ethnic Chinese native to that country, they've all shown that the motherland trumps all other loyalties and sensibilities. When it comes to these people, China can do no wrong and must be defended at all costs against any sort of criticism. Well, glad to know Chinese pride is world wide.

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i am wondering how many of those say "One China Forever" would voluntary go back and live in china!

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i am wondering how many of those say "One China Forever" would voluntary go back and live in china!

Uhm, a lot of them?

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I appreciate and envy Chinese people's unity, China's diplomacy, economy and military power and I am confident Olympics will be a great success. Meantime, let us hope China will hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama at an early date and find amicable solution to Tibetans grievances.

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Looking at the hordes of unusually motivated Chinese "protectors of the torch". I'm referring to the ones pretending to be regular flag waving fans lining the road. I would have to say that Australia has a small Chinese army in its midst that it is unaware of.

I'd love to see how many of them are in OZ on regular tourist visas.

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Could somebody please explain me why the Chinese blue men thought they would have any kind of rights over the police of a sovereign country? What would make them think that they above the law of another country?

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This torch relay just gets more and more ridiculous.

It's meant to be a "Journey of Harmony" but where's the harmony in 1000s of Chinese people lining the route and nobody else?!

Good to see that the Auzzie police shoved those horrible blue paramilitaries out of the way. Choosing those guys to "guard" the torch has been a major PR disaster for China.

All in all, China has managed to alienate huge numbers of people around the world in respect to these Olympics. I, and I suspect many other people will be reaching for the remote control whenever the Olympics happens to pop on the TV this summer.

Trying to demonize the Dalai Lama has been a huge and almost childish error.

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If China's such a great place as these students seem to claim, why are they studying in Australia?

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@Zybster: Because they're used to having those rights over people in their own country. Power is corrupting.

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Could somebody please explain me why the Chinese blue men thought they would have any kind of rights over the police of a sovereign country? What would make them think that they above the law of another country?

Maybe cause of what they realised they could get away with in London.

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Those people here criticizing China obviously know nothing about Chinese history and culture. Example, the word "motherland" sounds silly in English, not to mention very political sounding, but in Chinese it more accurately means "ancestral land". With such a long history it needs no further explanation as to how the term is coined up.

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Triple888, in case you haven't noticed it, this article is about the lawlessness of the Chinese police in another country. Is the expression "ancestral land" an excuse for that?

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Free Tibet

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If China stopped picking on smaller vulnerable nations, none of this problem would exist. But, unfortunatley, Chinese are the number 1 when i comes to ignorance

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If China's such a great place as these students seem to claim, why are they studying in Australia?

That makes no sense. I think the US is great. Guess that means I should never study abroad.

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Shouldn't have let them accompany the torch, Japan was right on not accepting Chinese security. I guess Australia may think a little more about its sovereignty if this sort of situation ever arises again. No need to let the foreign goon squad in.

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Just watched the evening news with scenes from Canberra.

There was some Chinese guy waving a Chinese flag, his face twisted with hate and aggression, chanting "One China, One China".

Where's the Olympic spirit in that?

China seems to be turning these Olympics into the Olympics of hate and nationalism.

As people have said, it's amazing having these Chinese people gathering in foreign countries when they can't even gather to criticize their own government in Tiananmen Square.

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What PC nonsense! Allowing these "escorts" to have their way over the police is a disgrace.

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And to think, the running of the torch was Hitler's idea.

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We really need to cancel the 2008 Olympics.

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Example, the word "motherland" sounds silly in English, not to mention very political sounding, but in Chinese it more accurately means "ancestral land". With such a long history it needs no further explanation as to how the term is coined up.

During most of which Tibet was independent. Unless ancestral means "colonial", then it ain't the right word.

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China seems to be turning these Olympics into the Olympics of hate and nationalism.

To be fair, the hate seems to be coming from the west, and the nationalism is coming as a direct result.

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Canberra shows how a proper torch run is conducted, lessons for London, Paris and San Francisco.

Australia had to be commended for staging the Olympic torch event as part of a carnival in Canberra. About 10,000 pro-Chinese participants came out in full force along the tree-lined avenues swarming with a sea of red flags. It was a wonderful sight to behold and the atmosphere was ringing with patriotic songs and chanting “One China” and “Tibet will be a part of China”. The whole ceremony opened with Chinese and Australian dances and songs that lasted for nearly three hours. There were hot-air balloons on display and a firework demonstration as well. The much smaller pro-Tibetan sympathizers converged near the Parliament House and were trying to make some noise but it was easily drowned out. The internet plays a part in getting the Chinese students, workers, expatriates to come out in full support of the torch relay. Anyone who carried a Free Tibet banner is taunted and ridiculed by the larger Chinese crowd where there were no physical assaults or abuses. It was peaceful on both sides without any controversial episode.

Overall, the torch run was largely incident free with the police being given the orders to hauled and handcuff anyone who breach the protective human barricades for the torchbearers to run. Police officers were given the go-ahead to seize eggs, projectiles or fire extinguishers which can be used to disrupt the torch. Extra security officers were on standby in minibuses and vans. Due to the presence of Tibetan sympathizers near the Parliament House, extra layers of security were present to keep these troublemakers out.

There were about 80 runners taking part in the torch relay and it culminated in the lighting of the cauldron by an Olympian legend, Ian Thorpe, with loud cheers from the crowd who came to the Commonwealth Park to witness the historical event. Police Chief Mike Phelan told reporters that they were determined to allow the torch to complete its full route s planned. Officials claimed a victory because it largely avoided the chaotic protest scenes that marred the portions held in Europe and the United States. Jeremy Lasek, a spokesman for the Australian Capital Territory, commented that the relay was a success and he proudly added that Aussies show how a run should be conducted.

I wholeheartedly agreed with him. It is a shame for London, Paris and San Francisco.

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"the hate seems to be coming from the west"

i don't think that it is a hatreds issue from the west or anyone. most non-tibetans are protesting on the human-right issue. we saw what the communist done to the protester in tibet which very contrast to what they had said when they asking to be the host of the game as Jacques Rogge's "moral engagement" comment on the news some month back.

the chinese goverment fell the do what they said, now they fell to listen to what the international say, so why do they still want to be the host of an international event when they are not ready to listen to the international?

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I hate to say it but there is no people in the world that want foreigners to come into their country and tackle and take ones own people down to the ground whether it is protecting an Olympic torch or what. Especially it being some goons from China as many around the world sees them as being.:)

As for nationalism, I must admit it is normal and will continually come out from the Chinese people around the world whether their government in and of China are killers and communists that have and still today suppressing the peoples rights as human beings. This is just the nature of people and love for ones country. No one wants to hear anyone describe their land of origin or the land they live in as a country of disgrace and I am sure many of just decent from Chinese immigrants have a hard time dealing with that themselves when born and living abroad. That does not change the facts and the truth about China and it does not make others see the Chinese people that feel they must stand up for China and its leadership, be seen in a positive light, because it does not change the way foreigners see China as a country and it does not change the feelings of disgust and also regret when seeing Chinese people supporting a country with such rule of force by their leaders and seeing those in such celebration as a stance of support for those that suppress and permit others the ability to suppress others in other lands. At the same time those that are seen celebrating have only gained over the last 20- 30 years by those that are protesting China’s stance on these very same issues being protested today because the people of China did not come to this point on their own and only can and should understand and acknowledge the help they receives from these outside sources.. Of course the mental conditioning from such rule has denied them of such recognition of others that has forced the Chinese leaders to allow what restrictions that have been lifted at this point in China’s history,, again the nationalism aspect running its course.

Again lets not forget the reasoning behind awarding China the Olympics... to promote change!!!!!!!! Well needed change as we are seeing with the internal or so called internal policies of China.

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One comment from an Aussie man sums up the rude Chinese attitude : "The agressive Chinese outnumbered the small but well behaved Tibetan group by 100 to 1. Unfortunately , this is a microcosm of the sad situation in Tibet." I saw chinese students, angry ,agressive, rude, pushing and screaming at the poor Tibetans , who were gentle and just trying to get their message across. Most Tibetans were overcome with greif, many crying openly.

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Australia did an excellent job,it protected the dignity and holyness of torch,politics should not be mixed with sports,sino-Australia relaitionship will be furthered, more and more Australian are becoming interested in China and its culture,meanwhile China has turned No 1 trade partner of Australia.

As Hu 'll visit Japan,good sino-Japan relationship is highly emphasized by China,I'm sure Japanese policemen will keep torch safe and sacred on Saturday.

OLYMPICS GAME DOES NOT DO ANYTHING WITH POLITICS,IT'S A VENUE FOR WORLD TO ENJOY PEAECE AND LOVE.

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Everything will be mixed with politics! If you want it or not, at some point if becomes too influential. And who wants relationships with China anyway ... except for the industry.

I do hope somebody manages to blow off the torch, that would be fun to watch how the uncool blue jersey men try to oppress that!

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Now let us see how Japan goes... I am hoping the message still comes forefront about the host country and the truths that are of that country.. Why should the truth be disguised? That helps no one, especially the people of China themselves. As we are all well aware of, China’s changes came from outside sources and not from the honesty or goodwill of its leaders. And I am well aware that statement will not go over well with the play of nationalism we are seeing, Seems like it’s the” Peoples games” all over again just as we seen with Germany…geez sort of scary to see the correlation come to light. Does this not also reveal the same sense as for dictator’s picture rise about all in public settings and places of public gathering as seen in other regimes that are of forced rule such as N. Korea, Saddam Hussein, Stalin and the rest of the mighty and so thought of themselves as gods..

So is it true the Chinese torch protectors will not be allowed to protect the torch as it goes throughout Japan??

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