Olympic torch to scale Everest amid tight security
The Chinese have closely guarded their plan to carry the Olympic flame to the top of the world's highest mountain.
The Olympic torch tour is scheduled to stop atop Mt. Everest early this month. Following protests that have followed the Beijing Olympic flame in Paris; Canberra, Australia; Seoul, South Korea; and elsewhere, tight security is accompanying the planned trip to the peak.Skip to next paragraph
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The flame could reach the summit as early as this weekend or early next week. Already, one American climber, who has been carrying a pro-Tibet flag, was kicked off the mountain and heavy security is reportedly enforcing the no-climb rule in effect from May 1 to May 10 in Nepal, which, like China, controls access to part of the mountain. Nepal's forces have reportedly been urged to shoot at protesters.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that it had written to Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala asking him "to immediately rescind these orders ... and do not employ unnecessary or excessive use of force against protesters in Nepal."
Mt. Everest, also called Mt. Qomolangma, divides China and Nepal. Nepal has been cautious not to anger China over ongoing protests related to China's crackdown in Tibet that broke out in early March.
Last week, Nepal banned protests and armed Nepalese soldiers were stationed at Mt. Everest's base camp. The soldiers were also stationed at Camp 2, a lower stop for mountaineers preparing to summit the world's highest mountain. The online news site Nepalnews.com said local media reported the orders to shoot.
[The Nepali daily newspaper] Annapurna Post daily quotes a Home Ministry official as saying that security personnel have been deployed to ensure that no one will put obstacle to the torch rally.
Security men with logistics and mountaineering equipment have already been moved to the area.
The soldiers have been given orders to shoot if necessary.
The blog Peak Freaks says that teams coming down from Camp 2 reported a sign saying, "Dear Climbers, Do Not Go Past This Point." Another climber said armed security personnel were posted at Camp 2, according to the blog Explorersweb, which regularly reports on Mt. Everest:
"There is a small police post at 6400m on Everest and the one armed soldier does the rounds each day, with conspicuous sniper rifle, however they mostly give a friendly Namasté [greeting]."
Still, because of what's seen as a threat from protesters, the actual torch route and dates remains shrouded in secrecy. Reuters correspondent Nick Mulvenney, who has been blogging about the Everest trip here, reported that the torch had left the base camp on Tuesday of this week, although the report's veracity was later questioned.
On their way up to base camp, the media passed through a checkpoint and then a large border police encampment outside which stood more than 20 uniformed men armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
Security is also behind the secrecy surrounding the departure date of the climbing team, and large areas of base camp were ruled "out of bounds" to the media on Wednesday and cordoned off by police tape.
One man who has been working at base camp for 10 days, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the climbers and flame left on Tuesday. But officials dismissed a similar report on a Chinese website as "fake".