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Family held at Malaysia torch relay
Pro-Tibet activists clash with Chinese supporters during Olympic torch relay.
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2008 20:29 GMT
The Japanese family arrested for unfurling the Tibetan flag was released without any charge [AFP]

Pro-Tibet protesters have clashed with Chinese nationals in Kuala Lumpur after unfurling a Tibetan flag at the start of the Malaysian leg of the Olympic torch relay.
A Japanese brother and sister and the woman's five-year-old boy, along with a Buddhist monk and a British woman wearing a "Free Tibet" T-shirt, were detained by the Malaysian police, after they clashed with Chinese supporters on Monday.
Strict security
 
The Olympic torch was carried through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, under tight security, to avoid the chaos that has plagued the relay in Paris, London, Athens and San Francisco.
 
Malaysian police had deployed 1,000 officers along the 16.5km route of the torch relay.
 
Security concerns have forced the authorities in Indonesia, Australia and Japan, the torch's upcoming stops, to change or shorten their routes, with Indonesia opting to have spectators on an invitation-only basis.

 

Malaysia had warned that anybody disrupting the torch relay would be arrested.

Imran Jaafar, the president of the Olympic council of Malaysia, was the first to run with the torch, accompanied by uniformed policemen and motorcycle outriders.

Jaafar said: "I am very excited, very honoured to be the first runner. The honour is not just for myself, but also for the country."

Supporters clash

Chinese say their country can not be split [AFP]
Chinese nationals who gathered along the route shouted "Taiwan and Tibet belong to China" and "No one can split China".

They attacked the Japanese family which unfurled the Tibetan flag at the beginning of the relay with plastic batons.

Muhammad Sabtu Osman, Kuala Lumpur police chief, said: "They unfurled the Tibetan flag and a 'Free Tibet' banner, and were immediately taken to the police station, only for documentation purpose."

Malaysian police said that the Japanese were released without any charges after six hours and were residents of Malaysia itself.

Earlier, the torch relay had attracted anti-China protests during stopovers in Europe and the Americas, following China's crackdown on protesting Tibetans.

Onward journey

The Olympic torch now travels to Indonesia in its next leg.

Indonesian organisers said that they would stage a shortened, invitation-only torch relay, under heavy security on Tuesday, to thwart any anti-China protests.

Sumohadi Marsis, the organising committee head, said: "The steps were taken after pressure from the Chinese embassy."

Marsis said: " The relay was originally scheduled to take place through the centre of Jakarta, the capital, but will now mostly follow the road that circles the city's main sport stadium."

"Eighty torchbearers will run around the stadium about five times," said Marsis.

Marsis said that 5,000 guests, mostly schoolchildren, would watch the 7km relay but members from public would be barred.

"We have to make it limited."

The torch moves on from Indonesia to Australia and even Australian  organisers said the relay route had been shortened to avoid central and narrow streets where protests could be organized.

Ted Quinlan, Australian torch relay organiser, said they had identified "hot spots" for protests and the route could be changed if protests got out of control.

Source:
Agencies
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