ATHENS (Reuters) - Tibetan activists on Tuesday urged the International Olympic Committee to cancel the Olympic torch relay in Tibet and said there was still time to press China on human rights.
The group that has disrupted the torch relay along its route from ancient Olympia through European capitals said it was determined to continue the protests and would try to lobby IOC officials meeting in Athens this week.
“There is still time to pressure China, this is a moment that won’t come again,” Lhadon Tethong, head of the Students For a Free Tibet, told a news conference in Athens.
Members of the group have gathered in Athens ahead of an IOC board meeting on Wednesday, when the committee will announce the shortlist out of seven cities bidding for the 2016 Olympics, before the final decision in October 2009.
The group said the IOC had not exerted any pressure on China and its Olympic organizing committee (BOCOG) or held it accountable for violations against Tibetans.
“We want to hear (IOC President) Jacques Rogge and the IOC executive board members stop spinning and start talking in real terms,” said Tethong. “No more of this idea of back door, back room, quiet. The world needs to hear.”
The relay, which has been disrupted internationally by anti-Chinese protests, was scheduled to go to Tibet on June 19 and stay for three days, but organizers said recently the Olympic flame would only spend one day in capital Lhasa.
“If IOC board members truly stand behind the universal values of Olympism they should immediately withdraw authorization for China to take the Olympic torch through Tibet,” Tethong said.
“In the unfortunate case the IOC will irresponsibly allow China to parade the torch through Tibet and the areas now under clampdown, they must at the very least take immediate measures to ensure that international media be allowed access.”
Activists said they would attempt to meet Rogge while the executive board of the sports body meets in Athens for three days.
Tibetan activists have caused serious disruptions to the longest torch relay in Olympic history, protesting against a Chinese crackdown in Tibet and parts of western China.
China has ruled Tibet since a 1950 invasion and has accused Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of plotting “terror” ahead of the August 8-24 Olympics.
Writing by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Giles Elgood