| CANBERRA, April 24
CANBERRA, April 24 In the biggest pro-Beijing
rally of the protest-marred Olympic torch relay, more than
10,000 Chinese Australians rallied in Canberra on Thursday,
bringing a sea of red Chinese flags and drowning out Tibetan
Protests and tight security have followed the Olympic torch
around the world over the past month, putting China's domestic
and foreign polices under the spotlight ahead of the Games in
Beijing had hoped the torch's progress would be a symbol of
unity in the run-up to the Beijing Games. However, it has
turned into a public relations nightmare, forcing host
countries to protect the torch with security measures usually
afforded a state leader.
Anti-Chinese protests during the previous relay legs have
sparked a wave of patriotism amongst Chinese at home and
abroad, and on Thursday thousands of Chinese chanting "One
China" packed the start and finish of the torch relay in the
Police made seven arrests, but for the most part the event
"This is a magnificent day for us today to show that
Australia can have a peaceful rally. Watching overseas
protests, I felt shamed that they can behave like that,"
Wellington Lee, from the Chinese Association of Victoria state,
Chinese six-deep lined the 16-km (10-mile) relay route, and
hundreds of cars drove around Canberra carrying Chinese flags.
"It was highly organised. Australians will feel a little
bit uncomfortable by the fact that communist China came to town
and just showed it can buy anything," free-Tibet supporter and
Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown told Reuters.
Anti-China protests have largely focused on Beijing's
crackdown against demonstrations by Tibetans in China earlier
In Washington, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John
Negroponte called on China to stop vilifying the Dalai Lama and
to instead start talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual
"Public vilification of the Dalai Lama will not help defuse
the situation," Negroponte told a U.S. Senate hearing.
Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of being behind March 14
riots in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, and unrest that followed in
other ethnic Tibetan areas, as part of a bid for Tibetan
independence and to ruin the Olympics.
The European Union's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson,
on Thursday spoke out against calls from both sides for
boycotts, saying they only served to "deepen differences,
create massive resentment and make dialogue much harder".
The European Parliament had urged EU leaders to boycott the
opening ceremony at the Games unless China starts talks with
the Dalai Lama. In retaliation, there have been Chinese calls
to boycott European, especially French, businesses.
The torch's troubles are far from over. On Saturday, it
will be run through Nagano, Japan, where officials have changed
the route due to security concerns and complaints from locals.
Three corporate sponsors of the Japanese leg of the relay
-- Coca-Cola (KO.N), Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) and
computer-maker Lenovo (0992.HK) -- have also pulled out.
The route for the torch's visit to Ho Chi Minh City on
April 29 still has not been revealed. Security concerns were
underlined by a call from exiled Vietnamese activists for
protests against China's claim over a disputed group of
But China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi refused to be
bowed, saying during a visit to Hanoi that the torch relay in
fellow-Communist Vietnam "will be a symbol of the Olympics
Unlike London, Paris or San Francisco, where torch bearers
were jostled by anti-Beijing protesters as they ran, in
Canberra a heavy police presence, steel barricades and the
city's wide boulevards ensured runners were unobstructed. The
Australian relay cost A$2 million.
Scuffles broke out between Tibetan protesters and China
supporters, who included Australian Chinese and Chinese
students in Australia, before the start of the relay and as a
few Tibetan protesters tried to block the runners.
Two pro-Tibet women charged the torch convoy as it neared
parliament house and were dragged away by police, as one
yelled: "They're torturing my country."
Another man who sat down on the road in front of the convoy
shouting "stop killing Tibet" was quickly dragged away by
Police were at times forced to escort Tibetan protesters
through a sea of Chinese yelling "Liar, Liar, Liar".
"We are a bit afraid but we really just hope that our voice
can be heard in Beijing," said Tibetan Tenzin Dhargy.
Tibet protesters included Canadian singer K.D. Lang, a
Buddhist who interrupted her Australian tour to travel to
Canberra for the torch relay. "Tibet is a global heritage. It's
something we want to protect, it's something that enriches the
entire universe," she said.
(Additional reporting by Grant McCool in Hanoi and Chris
Buckley in Beijing; Writing by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Alex
("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at