Olympic torch security row stresses Australian-Chinese ties
Thursday's tour in Canberra saw some fights and a dispute over China's tough "torch attendants."
(Page 2 of 2)
Australia is home to a huge Chinese diaspora, educates tens of thousands of Chinese students each year, and enjoys a booming economy largely due to selling minerals to China.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But the Australians also pride themselves in being forthright on China's flaws, and last month Mr. Rudd, in China as part of a world tour, said he was concerned about the "significant human rights problems in Tibet."
His frank remarks, which angered Beijing, were echoed yesterday by Mr. Stanhope in a speech at the welcoming ceremony of the torch relay. "We hope our friendship can bear a little plain speaking," he said, as smoke from a fire drifted over Aboriginal dancers in face paint and loincloths. "We do not muzzle dissent just because it might embarrass us or embarrass our friends."
Less than an hour later, as the torch passed in front of the federal parliament building, a pair of Tibetan protesters flung themselves on the ground in front of police motorcyclists before being dragged away, handcuffed, and arrested by Australian police.
As the torch continued on its 10-mile route around Canberra, pushing and shoving broke out between Chinese supporters and pro-Tibet demonstrators.
"They were very aggressive, they grabbed the Tibetan flag I was carrying," said Vivienne Murray, a member of the Australia Tibet Council. "There was a tug of war, and I told them to give it back. I was furious."
Former refugee Lobsang Choegyal, who came to Australia from Tibet three years ago, said he hoped the protests would focus attention on China's brutal security crackdown in Tibet last month. "We will never give up until we get our freedom, no matter how long it takes," he said.
Chinese students yelled "liars" and "shame" at the Tibetans. "They are just ridiculous. Tibet has been part of China for thousands of years," said Oliver Zhang, a student who had traveled hundreds of miles from his college in Queensland.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that seven people were arrested during the relay. Five were pro-China protesters, two were pro-Tibet, police said.
After days of confusion over the exact role of China's torch attendants, just three were allowed to accompany the flame – two on foot and one riding pillion on a police motorbike. One flame escort who tried to run alongside a torch bearer was repeatedly shoved aside by Australian officers.
Despite the protests, organizers deemed the relay "a raging success." The flame heads next to Japan.