12 Apr 2008

Chinese torch guards are 'thugs' says British Olympic chief

Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Olympic Committee, has described the Chinese officials guarding the Olympic torch as "thugs", piling more embarrassment onto the Games' organisers.

Lord Coe was overheard talking about the attendants, who formed part of a huge security presence around the flame, during a private telephone conversation with a member of his press team.
The Chinese guards, more than a dozen of whom surrounded Olympic flame during its chaotic journey through London on Sunday, are officially employed to ensure the safe handover of the torch between runners and to ensure it remains lit throughout the relay.
But the attendants, thought to have been recruited from the security services, have been criticised for allegedly using aggressive tactics against protestors demonstrating against China's human rights abuses and the occupation of Tibet. Telegraph

The guards appear to be members of the Beijing Olympic Games Sacred Flame Protection unit, a detachment of personnel from China's People's Armed Police. This paramilitary force has wide-ranging duties, from protecting diplomatic missions to maintaining internal security. Units of the People's Armed Police were deployed to forcibly quell violent unrest last month in Tibet.

In Tibet and other heavily Tibetan parts of China, Chinese authorities have arrested hundreds of people who they say were either involved in the initial outbreak of violence in Lhasa March 14 or in the unrest that has continued since then. Despite a decisive show of force in China's vast Tibetan region, authorities have struggled to bring the unrest under control. Wall Street Journal

Japan will not allow the squad of Chinese flame guards to intervene with the Beijing Olympic torch's progress when it arrives in a Japanese city this month, the national police head was quoted as saying on Friday.

"We should not violate the principle that the Japanese police will firmly maintain security," Kyodo news agency quoted Shinya Izumi, head of the National Public Safety Commission, as saying.

"We do not know what position the people who escorted the relay are in," Izumi was quoted as saying. "If they are for the consideration of security, it is our role." Reuters