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World News

China says anti-Dalai Lama rant not politicising Games

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday shrugged off a warning by the International Olympic Committee not to mix politics with sport, describing anti-Dalai Lama comments during the Tibet torch relay as “striving to stabilise” the region.

A People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier stand guard as organized participants wave flags during the opening ceremony of the Olympic torch relay in Lhasa, Tibet June 21, 2008. REUTERS/Nir Elias

Beijing blamed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and his followers for deadly riots that broke out in Tibetan capital in Lhasa on March 14, and regularly accuses him of scheming to split the restive Himalayan region from China.

The IOC on Wednesday said it had written to Beijing Olympic organisers to ask them not to politicise the Games after Tibet’s Communist Party boss Zhang Qingli said China’s “red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above the (Tibetan sky)”.

“We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique,” Zhang added, during a ceremony marking the end of the Olympic torch relay in Lhasa.

Lhasa’s Communist Party boss, Qin Yizhi, also denounced the exiled spiritual leader at the relay’s opening ceremony.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said he was not familiar with the specifics of the IOC’s letter, but said the officials’ comments did not contradict China’s opposition to politicising the Olympics.

“China’s firm stance is to oppose politicising the Olympic Games, and especially using them to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” Liu told a regular news conference.

“For some officials to express their attitudes on some issues is not to politicise the Olympics, but it is striving to further stabilise the Tibet region and create a harmonious and stable environment for the Olympic Games,” Liu said.

The Lhasa riots and China’s subsequent crackdown became a focus of anti-Chinese protests on relay legs in London, Paris and San Francisco, prompting ugly scenes which alarmed the IOC and fuelled nationalist fury among many Chinese.

China has often denounced critics for politicising the Games and the Olympic charter allows for no demonstration or political propaganda at “Olympic sites or other areas”.

Tibet has cast a long shadow over the torch relay, which China hoped would project the image of a stable, modern and harmonious country ahead of the Games.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie

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