Charging the White House with downplaying human rights violations by China, Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has asked President George W Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony to press the communist giant over Tibet and Darfur.
"I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government," the Democratic Senator for New York said.
Her statement came as pro-Tibetan activists began protests in San Francisco where the Olympic torch was due to arrive after a chaotic journey through Paris and London.
<b1>Three demonstrators scaled the landmark Golden Gate Bridge unfurling a giant banner reading "One World, One Dream" and "Free Tibet 08". San Francisco is the only stop in the United States for the torch which is being taken to Beijing.
In an apparent attempt to appear tough, Clinton went beyond other democrats in demanding boycott of the opening ceremony, citing violent clashes in Tibet and failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the "genocide" in Darfur.
"These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government," she said.
But Clinton also urged the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an "opportunity to live up to universal human rights aspiration of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic Games have come to represent."
"Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights," Clinton said.
Prior to Clinton's statement, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the Bush administration has a great deal of concern about human rights in China and would never be afraid to express its views but the administration expected the American athletes to participate in the games.
Clinton is locked in a tight race with Barack Obama to win the Democratic nomination for the November Presidential election. Bush, who heads a republican administration, has insisted that he will attend the opening ceremony in August despite protests from Democrats over China's crackdown in Tibet.
Atleast 35 people were arrested in London as anti-China protesters clashed with police and tried to snatch the torch. In Paris, officials put out the torch several times following disruptions by protesters. The relay was cut short and was finally taken by bus to a stadium where clashes broke out between pro-Tibet activists and China supporters.
China reacted angrily to the disruption of the Olympic torch relay by pro-Tibetan protesters calling it "despicable activities" and vowed not to bow to "outside pressure" to make concessions on the Tibet issue.
"We express strong condemnation of the deliberate disruption of the Olympic Torch Relay by 'Tibetan independence' separatist forces regardless of the Olympic spirit and the law of Britain and France," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.