China condemns "despicable" torch disruptions

BEIJING Mon Apr 7, 2008 8:20pm EDT

1 of 7. Policemen arrest a pro-Tibet demonstrator along the way of the Olympic torch relay in Paris April 7, 2008. The relay of the Olympic torch through the streets of Paris by runners was cancelled on Monday and the flame was put on a bus at the request of Chinese authorities after huge pro-Tibetan protests, French television reported.

Credit: Reuters/Partrick Kovarik/Pool

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Tuesday condemned the disruption of the Olympic torch relay in London and Paris, vowing it would not impede the Olympic spirit.

Officials in Paris on Monday were forced to extinguish the Olympic flame and carry it by bus when anti-China protesters tried to seize it. During the British leg the day before, activists waving Tibetan flags and shouting "Shame on China" turned the event into an obstacle course.

"We express our strong condemnation of the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by 'Tibetan independence' separatist forces, who gave no thought to the Olympic spirit or the laws of Britain and France," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement posted at www.fmprc.gov.cn.

"Their despicable activities tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit."

China had hoped the Olympic torch relay would by a symbol of unity in the run-up to the Games, which open in Beijing on August 8 and which are a source of immense national pride.

Instead, the torch has become a lightning rod for protesters advocating Tibetan independence from Chinese Communist rule, as well as other causes, following a wave of unrest throughout China's Tibetan regions.

Jiang also took issue with reports that said officials in Paris were forced to extinguish the flame, saying the relay was temporarily changed there to safeguard the security of the torch.

"The reports by foreign media are false in claiming that the Olympic torch was forced to be extinguished during its relay in Pais," she said.

The torch heads to San Francisco on Wednesday, where it is expected to face continued obstacles.

(Reporting by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Nick Macfie)

("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)

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