In Paris, Olympic torch ignites protests
Amid numerous disruptions of the torch relay, IOC President Jacques Rogge called on China to quickly resolve unrest in Tibet.
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China reacted angrily, calling the protests around the flame "vile."Skip to next paragraph
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"During the relay, we have met with some disturbance, but we hope the peace-loving people of the world will widely support the Beijing Olympic torch relay," said Wang Hui, a spokesman for the organizing committee of the Summer Games in Beijing, on Sunday.
But on Monday, Mr. Rogge broke with his vow to avoid any mention of politics in the same breath as the Games. He appealed publicly to Chinese authorities in Beijing to find "a quick and peaceful solution" for Tibet.
French government officials had no apologies. Human rights activists acted within their rights and their responsibilities, said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who comes from the same activist circles. But few experts seemed to think that the torch-relay protests alone would change much, either in China or in France.
"It's an illusion to dream that China will fully respect human rights in the short or long term at the demand of Western countries," said Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris, in an interactive interview on the website of the influential newspaper, Le Monde.
Still the Paris demonstrations could add momentum to efforts to find a common European position that might bring a shift in Chinese policies.
France takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in July, a chance for Mr. Sarkozy to act on a bigger stage. If he boycotts the August opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, as human rights groups are demanding, his absence would take on a European dimension.
So far, Mr. Sarkozy has said little more than that he is considering all options. But he is also keeping Ms. Yade out in public, front and center, where she has been speaking in a manner that gives heart to boycott campaigners. It is open to debate whether she is the president's foil, a human trial balloon, or a free agent when it comes to berating China over human rights abuses.
Last week, she was quoted by Le Monde as saying that the president would make his appearance in Beijing conditional on China's release of political prisoners, talking to the Dalai Lama about Tibet's status, and ending "violence against the people."
She later denied she had meant those were actual conditions, but the newspaper stood behind its report.