Japan 'snubs' China's 'men in blue'

Tokyo warns Beijing its Olympic torch protection force will be unwelcome in Nagano.

    Torch runners in other countries have alleged
    China's "men in blue" act aggressively [EPA]

    Japanese police will let two non-security Chinese officials run alongside the torch and relight it if it blows out, the Kyodo news agency said.
     
    Chinese guards protecting the torch in other cities have been picked from special police units chosen for skills in martial arts, marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat according to British-based website sinodefence.com, which specialises in Chinese military affairs.
     
    Security fears
     
    Japanese media on Saturday also reported that Zenkoji temple, the planned starting point of the Japanese leg of the Olympic torch relay, had backed out of the torch run.
     
    Shinsho Wakaomi, head of the temple's secretariat, said the temple's withdrawal from the ceremony was over fears for people's safety.
     
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    "Zenkoji is open to anyone, and people can get into the temple grounds from anywhere. Ensuring security at the temple is very difficult," he was quoted in Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun as saying.
     
    He also said the Buddhist temple was concerned over the situation in Tibet.
     
    China's recent crackdown on riots and protests against Chinese rule in Tibet have become a contentious issue surrounding the Beijing Olympics.
     
    Thailand's leg of the Olympic torch run got under way earlier on Saturday, with the flame guarded by more than 2,000 police and security officials.
     
    Scores of activists, angry at China's human rights record and rule over Tibet, were present as the torch was paraded through Bangkok, but protests lacked the scale of those that dogged the relay's progress through Europe and the US.
     
    About two hundred China supporters were also present in Bangkok to welcome the flame.
     
    The Olympic flame arrived in Kuala Lumpur early on Sunday amid heightened security and fears that foreigners might disrupt the April 21 leg.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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