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» 08/06/2008
CHINA
The Olympic torch arrives in Beijing, amid tight security and expropriations
by Wang Zhicheng
Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut and basketball star Yao Ming are the first to carry the flame. Beijing residents are invited to remain at home to avoid problems. “Great China” is on the world stage. A group of protesters take to Tiananmen Square against the expropriation of their houses.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – After a wait of months the Olympic flame was lit today in Beijing the main events city of the Games.  Over the next three days it will pass through the streets of the capital but city residents have been invited to remain in their homes to avoid security issues.

At 8 am this morning, in the historic setting of the Forbidden City, Beijing's Communist Party secretary, Liu Qi, handed over the torch to Chinese astronaut, Yang Liwei, the first national to go into space.  He was followed by another famous Chinese, basketball champion Yao Ming, who took up the torch and crossed the threshold of  Tiananmen Square. Over 841 torch bearers will carry the Olympic flame, each travelling between 100 – 200 metres, along the great city monuments until the lighting of the Olympic flame in the opening ceremony.  Today’s’ route will come to an end in Sky Temple, in a southern district of the city.

But what characterises the Beijing route is the mass of security barriers.  Torch bearers are surrounded by dozens of guards in white and blue, who became infamously linked to the international leg of the journey after clashes with pro-Tibet activists.  In the early morning a group of activists succeeded in raising a banner demanding freedom for Tibet before they were arrested by police.

Hours ahead of the ceremony in the Forbidden City, security officers combed the area, set up the barriers and reduced the number of participants.  Curiously, Beijing residents are being invited to stay at home and to follow the route of the Olympic flame on their TV’s to avoid security problems.

Beyond the omnipresence of armed soldiers on the streets and squares, there are also security checks in subway stations: all bags are subjected to metal-detectors; bridges and galleries are patrolled by “Olympic volunteers”, in short civil guards.  Checks are equally strict for those travelling by bus.   

Torch bearers who have been interviewed have all expressed their emotions regarding this “great event”. Director of the opening ceremony and one of the first to bear the torch today, Zhang Yimou, spoke of the “meaning” of the Olympics.  No one is talking about its contents.  The slogans being shouted out by groups along the route speak more clearly: “A great Olympics, a great China”; the Games are being seen as a  window of opportunity to soften foreign guests and make them understand how efficient, modern and powerful China has become.  At least 80 international leaders will attend the opening ceremony.  Among them Gorge W. Bush, Nicholas Sarkozy, Emperor Akihito, etc…  Their presence is the first real “Olympic victory” for Beijing, which feared a boycott in the wake of the Tibet repression.

The possible benefits of the Olympics for the Chinese people and Beijing’s residents have yet to be seen.  Yesterday dozens of city dwellers tried to hold a demonstration in Tiananmen Square against the expropriation of the homes without any compensation.  They were immediately dispersed by police. Together with them a further one and a half million Beijing residents await justice, after their lands and homes were requisitioned to make way for the spectacular Olympic constructions.

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See also
04/01/2008 INDIA – CHINA
The captain of the Indian Soccer team boycotts the Olympic torch
02/14/2008 CHINA
State media claim Chinese “disgusted” by Spielberg’s boycott
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Police arrest 200 protesters in Guizhou revolt
04/07/2008 CHINA – FRANCE – UK
The torch in Paris amid protests and tight security
08/04/2008 CHINA
Xinjiang, sixteen dead in a terrorist attack by Muslim separatists
CHINA
Was China truly ready for the Olympics?
CHINA
Olympic flop for Beijing’s hospitality industry
CHINA
Harsh economic winter to follow Olympics
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Underground Catholics defy police ban, celebrate mass with their bishop
CHINA
Beijing, religious freedom according to the Olympics
CHINA
Lot of criticism and many tears after China’s top champion Liu Xiang pulls out
HONG KONG - CHINA
Hong Kong bishop Tong in Beijing for Games, without meeting city's bishop
INDIA – TIBET – CINA
“We pray for the success of the Games” and for the dream of a better world
CHINA
World leaders welcomed to Beijing. Silence on human rights and terrorist threats
CHINA
Olympics: an entire village arrested for protesting against pollution
CHINA
Chinese Olympic titan looks to sky, fearing rain
INDIA – TIBET – CHINA
Tibetans involved in non-stop protests but Dalai Lama sends his best wishes for Olympics
CHINA
"Free Tibet" banner raised in Beijing: four foreign tourists arrested
VATICAN - CHINA
Pope: May China open itself to the Gospel
VATICAN - CHINA
Benedict XVI's wishes for Beijing and the Olympics
VATICAN
Pope: best wishes for Beijing Games; remembrance of Paul VI
CHINA
Chinese activists to Bush and Sarkozy: Don't forget us at the Games
TIBET - INDIA - CHINA
Wanted: Olympic athletes to remember Tibet in Beijing
CHINA
The China that says "no" to the Olympics
CHINA
Beijing ready for Olympics of suspicion and silence
CHINA
In Qindao, Olympic regatta threatened by algae invasion
CHINA
For the Olympics, prohibited to protest or speak with foreign journalists
TIBET - CHINA
Tibet reopens to foreign tourism, with restrictions for journalists and tourists
CHINA - INDIA - TIBET
Olympic torch in Tibet, but only "for a day". Tibetans arrested in India
CHINA
Fireworks banned in Beijing during Olympics
HONG KONG - CHINA - VATICAN
Olympics, bishop of Hong Kong invited to inaugural ceremony
CHINA
Heroes of Tiananmen still in prison
CHINA
Chinese migrants in heavy debt after having worked on the Olympic dream
HONG KONG-CHINA-TIBET-SUDAN
Three billion dollars a year from China for the genocide in Darfur

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