Shrugging off violent protests that have shaken Tibet, China said on Wednesday that the Olympic torch would go through the Himalayan region as planned on its way to August’s Beijing Games.
“The situation in Tibet has essentially stabilised, the Olympic torch relay will proceed as scheduled,” Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, told a news conference.
“Please be assured that whatever happens in... Tibet, those events will never affect the normal operations of the torch relay.”
The crackdown on the protests in Tibet and neighbouring Chinese provinces, which may have killed dozens of people, have sparked calls for a boycott of Beijing’s showcase Games.
China accuses the the Dalai Lama, of orchestrating the rash of monk-led protests and rioting — the most serious in the Himalayan region for nearly two decades — in a bid to wreck the August 8 to 24 Games.
The spiritual leader denies he masterminded the protests — which culminated last Friday in a riot in the capital of Tibet, Lhasa — from his base in India’s Dharamsala. He says he wants greater autonomy for his homeland, not independence, as China suspects.
Tibetan activists demonstrated outside the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s headquarters in Lausanne on Tuesday, demanding Tibet be withdrawn from the torch relay.
The relay, which starts when it is lit in Ancient Olympia, Greece, next Monday, is scheduled to visit Tibet twice.
When the flame arrives in Beijing on March 31 before embarking on its journey around the world, a second torch will be lit and taken to Tibet, where Chinese climbers will attempt to take it to the top of Mount Everest.
The attempt will take place in early May whenever the weather conditions on the world’s tallest mountain are most suitable. Tibet is also on the domestic leg of the relay in June.