Beijing welcomes Olympic flame

Flame arrives in China amid tight security in wake of protests over Tibet.

    The flame was brought to Tiananmen Square amid
    tight security [GALLO/GETTY]

    Earlier Liu Qi, chief of China's Olympic organising committee, brought the flame to China on a specially-charted plane from Greece landing at Beijing's main airport on Monday morning before a cordoned-off crowd of flag-waving supporters.


    Sporadic protests against Chinese rule in Tibet and the recent crackdown on protests in the region disrupted the flame's journey around Greece before its arrival in Beijing.


    A week ago pro-Tibet demonstrators scuffled with police outside the Panathenian stadium in ancient Olympia as Greek officials handed over the Olympic torch to organisers of the Beijing Games.


    Human rights activists and Tibetan demonstrators disrupted the globally televised torch-lighting ceremony, breaking a security cordon and unfurling protest banners.


    Tony Cheng, Al Jazeera's Beijing correspondent, said that in the wake of those protests games officials would be relieved that the torch has finally arrived in the China itself.


    "The Chinese authorities are going to be very pleased now that the torch will be somewhere where they can exert complete control," he said.




    Olympic torch relay

    The modern tradition of the torch relay began in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics


    This year will see the longest ever Olympic torch relay, travelling

    137,000 kilometres


    Relay visit 19 nations over 130 days


    First destination is Kazakhstan


    On the final leg, will travel through China, including through Tibet at to the

    summit of Mt Everest


    Click here to go to the official torch relay site

    (Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites)

    The torch relay officially starts on Tuesday in Beijing when the flame is scheduled to depart for Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan.


    The city is the first stop on an odyssey through 19 countries during April that will be followed by a three-month tour around China.


    Pro-Tibet groups and other human rights groups have said they plan to hold protests along the torch relay route.


    The torch is also due to pass through Lhasa, the scene of bloody riots in mid-March, and to the top of the Tibetan side of Mount Everest.


    China has come under heavy pressure from the international community to moderate its crackdown on protests and to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader.


    Boycott 'insulting'


    Prominent nations, however, have shied away from following call from pro-Tibet groups to boycott the Olympics.


    Protesters have vowed to disrupt the
    international leg of the torch relay [Reuters]

    At the weekend Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, told The Washington Times that it would be "insulting" to the Chinese people if Washington boycotted either the opening ceremony or the Games themselves.


    "I don't see the benefit of boycotting," Rice said.


    Although Chinese authorities are thought to have largely locked down dissent in Tibet and surrounding regions, protesters in other parts of the world continue to demonstrate against China's rule in the Himalayan region.


    In Nepal on Sunday, a group of 200 Tibetan exiles and Buddhist monks tried to storm the Chinese embassy visa office in Kathmandu but they were beaten back by police using bamboo batons.


    At least 130 protesters were arrested and several injuries were reported among the demonstrators and policemen.


    The protesters reached the metal gate of the fortified compound and tried to kick and push their way in.


    Tibetans have protested in front of the office in the past, but this is the first time they reached the gate.




    In Tibet itself the state-controlled Tibet Daily newspaper announced that the director of the region's ethnic minority and religious affairs commission had been replaced.


    He is believed to be the first political casualty of the unrest.


    Activists in Tibet began rallying on March 10 to mark a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.


    Demonstrations erupted into widespread rioting in Lhasa and spread to neighbouring Chinese provinces.  


    Beijing says the rioters killed 18 civilian by-standers and two police officers.


    Exiled Tibetan groups have put the death toll from the Chinese crackdown at between 135 and 140 Tibetans, with another 1,000 people injured and many more detained.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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