China cuts torch relay in Tibet

Olympic flame's tour through Tibet is reduced to a single day through Lhasa.

    China shortens the Olympic torch's trip through Tibet due to the Sichuan earthquake [AFP]

    Fifty journalists from 31 news organisations will be allowed to cover the relay, the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games (BOCOG) said.
     
    Lhasa had been off limits to foreign reporters and tourists since a crackdown on unrest there three months ago.

    "We will make proper arrangements for media coverage of the relay in Lhasa," Zhu said.

    "The adjustment to the Tibet leg of the torch relay is because of the earthquake, which has caused us to make several changes to the original route," she said.

    Sensitive routes

    Exiled Tibetan leaders say 203 people died during a crackdown on anti-Chinese government protestors in Lhasa in March.

    Pro-Tibet activists have argued that the leg in Lhasa should be cancelled due to the unrest.
     
    "It is irresponsible for the Chinese government to deliberately send a torch into a powder keg, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic sponsors should ask Beijing to cancel this part of the relay," the New York-based Human Rights Watch group said in a statement.
     
    The torch was originally scheduled to tour Tibet for three days, from June 19-21, as part of its long international journey to the Games being hosted by the Chinese capital in August.
     
    It is currently travelling through Xinjiang, a largely Muslim region in China's northwest, on a three-day, four-city tour scheduled to end on June 19.
     
    'Attacks plotted'
     
    The stops in Xinjiang and the Tibetan regions of China are regarded as the most controversial of the domestic relay route, which runs for thousands of kilometres over three months through every part of the country.

    China accuses Muslim separatists in Xinjiang of plotting attacks on the Games and has stepped up security in the region ahead of the relay.

    Tibetans are also accused of targeting the Olympics.

    China has reported killing one Tibetan "insurgent" and says "rioters" were responsible for 21 deaths.

    According to the original torch relay schedule, the Tibetan leg was to be followed by a trip to neighbouring Qinghai and then Gansu province, which both have ethnic Tibetan communities.
     
    Zhu, said the future route had yet to be officially announced. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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