April 3, 2008 / 8:02 PM / 12 years ago

China should drop Tibet torch relay: Dalai Lama envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China’s plan to run the Beijing Olympics torch relay through Tibet is “insulting” to Tibetans reeling under a recent crackdown and should be canceled, the Dalai Lama’s special envoy said on Thursday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) receives the Olympic torch from Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, during the "Welcome Ceremony for the Olympic Flame and the Launch Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay" at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, March 31, 2008. China's plan to run the Beijing Olympics torch relay through Tibet is "insulting" to Tibetans reeling under a recent crackdown and should be canceled, the Dalai Lama's special envoy said on Thursday. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

Lodi Gyari, who represented the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in six rounds of talks with China, said the Himalayan region that was rocked by riots last month was “in every sense, an occupied province, brutally occupied.”

The International Olympic Committee should urge China to drop plans to have the Olympic torch taken up Mount Everest next month and pass through the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in June as part of its 130-day worldwide relay, he said.

“This idea of taking the torch through Tibet, I really think, should be canceled precisely because that would be very deliberately provocative and very insulting after what has happened,” Gyari told a U.S. congressional panel.

The IOC “should tell China, ‘Look. That stretch of relay through Tibet needs to be canceled,’” he said.

Buddhist monk-led marches in Tibet turned into an anti-Chinese riot in Lhasa last month and touched off a rash of demonstrations throughout the region that cast a shadow over China’s preparations for the August 8-24 games.

China has responded by cranking up security, sending thousands of anti-riot troops into Tibetan-populated areas and launching a propaganda blitz. The International Campaign for Tibet said on Thursday it had received reports of mass detentions and monasteries under siege.

China blames the Dalai Lama, whom it labels a separatist, and his followers for stirring up the Lhasa violence to try to discredit the Olympics. But the 72-year-old Buddhist leader has repeatedly expressed support for the Beijing Games.

China says 19 people died in violence in Tibet, while the Tibetan government-in-exile says around 140 people died.

Gyari told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus “the Chinese government must bear full responsibility” for Tibet policies he had warned Beijing would create troubles.

“At every meeting in the last six years I told the Chinese, ‘Please, you are pushing our people to the limits. If you continue pushing this policy, an unfortunate situation can happen,’” Gyari said. “But they did not listen.”

(Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Eric Beech)

Take a look at the Countdown to Beijing blog at blogs.reuters.com/china

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