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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

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PM

 

Mon day 7 April 2008

London protests lift pressure on China

 

MARX COLVIN: When the International Olympic Committee granted Beijing the right to hold the Olympics, China promised improved human rights and press freedom. 

 

Instead, it's jailed dissidents, cracked down in Tibet and surrounding provinces and barred reporters from doing their job.  

 

The International Olympic Committee has said very little about any of that so far. But now the IOC has spoken out because of protesters disrupting the torch relay. 

 

After the relay in London descended into near chaos, the IOC President, Jacques Rogge, condemned the use of violence as incompatible with the Olympic Games. 

 

He said he was "very concerned" with the international situation and what had happened in Tibet. 

 

Meanwhile, human rights activists across the world are promising more disruption as the torch moves through Paris and San Francisco later this week. 

 

And as Edmond Roy reports, authorities in Canberra are also getting ready. 

 

EDMOND ROY: If the journey of the torch through London is any guide, security agencies around the various countries through which the flame makes its way to Beijing by August better be prepared for trouble. 

 

37 people were arrested and at one point the flame had to make its way through the city in a bus to avoid protesters. 

 

In Canberra, where the torch is due to arrive on April 23, authorities are taking no chances. 

 

Chief Minister of the ACT is Jon Stanhope. 

 

JON STANHOPE: Well, yes, we are prepared, but of course we're refining and reconsidering our security plan. Of course, in the context of a major event such as this, we've always been aware of the security requirements. 

 

But, I have to say, as a result of the events in Tibet and some of the tension now in the relationship between communities in China as a result of issues around human rights in Tibet, we've been reassessing our security arrangements and we'll continue to do that as the relay progresses across the world. 

 

EDMOND ROY: Are you disappointed somewhat that it had to come to this? 

 

JON STANHOPE: I'm extremely disappointed. We've been very excited about the prospect of hosting the relay here in Canberra, the national capital. It was a great opportunity for us to present Canberra, the national capital, a sublimely beautiful city to the rest of Australia and to the rest of the world. And, we were looking forward to that opportunity. And we're still hopeful that we can do that. But, yeah, we have a level of anxiety now of course about, you know, what we've witnessed and the prospect of that being repeated here. 

 

EDMOND ROY: For some, the torch relay and the right to peacefully protest human rights violations in China go hand in hand. 

 

Craig Wallace is an advocate for people with disabilities and he will be carrying the torch in Canberra. 

 

CRAIG WALLACE: Well, the scenes that I saw in London were certainly some very rigorous protests and naturally enough I'd be worried if we saw that sort of repetition in Canberra and I'd be hoping that people have their say, as they have the right to do, peacefully and appropriately. 

 

But that we also let the relay go ahead because the relay is actually about the significant achievements of the athletes and the other people involved - the community leaders and the volunteers. The Olympics has been held and the relay's been held in a range of countries. It's very had to nominate any one country that doesn't have some sort of human rights issue, and yet the relay goes ahead. 

 

The Olympics is an international thing, it's not just about the country that's hosting it. And I'd just ask people to, yes, have their say but also recognise that the torch bearers are there because they've also made a significant contribution to the community. 

 

EDMOND ROY: All of this appears far removed from what is going on in Tibet where sporadic violence continues despite a massive Chinese military crackdown that's now lasted more than three weeks. 

 

What remains unanswered is just how Chinese authorities missed the potential for Tibetan violence and the international condemnation it created. 

 

What was supposed to be a positive, peaceful run up to the Games has now been hijacked by protests around the world. 

 

A point taken up by Greens leader,Senator Bob Brown. 

 

BOB BROWN: The torch will shine the light on human rights abuses in China. It is meant by the Beijing authorities to shine the light on how excellent they are in bringing China into the community of nations and a leadership role at that, in the 21st century. But, in fact, what it reflects is the shortcomings in terms of democracy, religious freedom and civil rights for oppressed people like the Tibetans. And it may yet end up being a circuit-breaker which does get the Chinese to recognise the rest of the world is watching them and their political repression, not just the progress to the Games. 

 

EDMOND ROY: That may well be the case, but just last week activist Hu Jia was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail for what authorities termed as, "inciting subversion of state power." 

 

Among his crimes, essays he wrote linking the staging of the Games with human rights. 

 

Thousands of websites have also been shut down and Amnesty International in a report earlier this month indicated that despite promises by the International Olympic Committee, the crackdown on activists has only deepened because of the Olympics. 

 

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Poland has already indicated he will boycott the opening ceremony and the French President has said he wouldn't rule out a similar move. 

 

The Olympics was meant to bring people together. The 2008 Games may well bring them together, but the focus may not be on athletic prowess, but human rights. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Edmond Roy.