BEIJING Chinese Internet users have rushed to send thousands of red national flags overseas to support the troubled global torch relay ahead of the Beijing Olympics, state media said on Wednesday.
Beijing's postal authority had been mailing the flags express and free of charge to overseas Chinese in cities along the route, including Canberra, where the torch relay is to be held on Thursday, the China Daily reported.
Anti-Chinese protests, largely over Beijing's handling of deadly riots in Tibet in March, have marred the relay in London, Paris and San Francisco, with many exiled Tibetans trying to snatch or extinguish the torch.
The chaotic scenes and perceived biased Western media coverage of the Tibet riots and the torch disruptions have sparked an outpouring of patriotic fervor among Chinese in and outside China.
Counter-protests by overseas Chinese, many of whom are students, have since taken place in Europe and the United States. They have also rallied to support and guard the torch at remaining legs of the international relay.
The flag-donating campaign was launched by major Chinese websites, the China Daily said.
"We have received 13,000 national flags since last Friday, when the appeal was made online," it quoted Jiang Ziniu, media relations director for news portal Sohu.com, as saying. Some overseas Chinese have also ordered flags from manufacturers in the country directly, it said.
"Local flag-making factories are operating at full capacity to meet the demand," the English-language newspaper said.
After Canberra, the torch goes to Nagano, Seoul, Pyongyang and Ho Chi Minh city before entering Chinese territory on April 30. It will then travel across the vast country for three months. The Beijing Games open on Aug 8.
(Reporting by Guo Shipeng; Editing by Nick Macfie)