03/26/2008, 00.00
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Olympics: the talk is about boycott

French President Sarkozy might boycott the Games’ opening ceremony. International pressure is growing for China to stop the violence and open Tibet to journalists. Beijing insists that all is under control, but police says the situation is still “critical”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Beijing is putting up a brave face, claiming Tibetan protests are under control with only a few dozens of protesters arrested, compared to the thousands claimed by pro-Tibet groups. At the same time though French President Nicolas Sarkozy has left open the possibility of boycotting the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony over China's crackdown.

For Mr Sarkozy “all options are open” regarding a boycott. He appealed to the “sense of responsibility” of China's leaders over the unrest.

The president's aides specified that he was still considering the possibility of snubbing the 8 August opening ceremony, but ruled out boycotting the entire games.

But the French position remains isolated for the time being. US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other heads of state or government have confirmed their presence on 8 August.

Everyone however is urging Beijing to act in a balanced way.

“For China's own sake, it is best to be as open and transparent as possible” about handling protests, said Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

China has also come under pressure at the United Nations' top human rights forum on Tuesday to permit foreigners to re-enter Tibet and assess the consequences of Beijing's crackdown on recent protests and riots.

The United States has objected to restrictions on the access of foreign media to Tibet.

The European Union called on China not to use force against demonstrators.

Today a selected group of about ten foreign journalists will be taken to Lhasa under tight control.

Meanwhile the Xinhua news agency said only 29 people were arrested whilst 660 voluntarily surrendered to police (280 in Lhasa, 381 in Ngawa in the Tibetan area of Sichuan province), most claiming that they were induced or forced to participate in the protests.

Another 13 people were arrested because they chanted “reactionary slogans” and carried a “reactionary flag,” namely the snow-lion flag of independent Tibet.

But exiled Tibetan groups claim that thousands were arrested, that monks and nuns have been tortured, that at least 140 have died, including 19 in Gansu province, compared to the government claim that just 22 died in Lhasa.

Even though Beijing put up a brave face, State Councillor Meng Jianzhu, who heads the Public Security Ministry, ordered Tibet's security forces to remain on alert, saying "the situation of the battle to fight separatists remains critical".

He vowed stricter management for Tibetan Buddhists. "Patriotic education and religion and law education" campaigns will be strengthened in monasteries so as to teach that religion must “not interfere in administration, the judiciary, education and so on."

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See also
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In San Francisco torch relay plays hide and seek to avoid protests
Ban Ki-moon staying away from Olympic Opening Ceremony
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