Tibetan activists stage symbolic torch relay in Taiwan

Tibetan activists on Sunday staged a symbolic torch relay in Taipei ahead of their "Olympics", a move sure to irk China after Taiwan refused to allow the torch for the Beijing Games on its soil.

Former Miss Tibet Tsering Chungtak, clad in a traditional robe, held the torch on the square in front of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, where a small group of Tibetans and Taiwanese had gathered, waving a "Tibetan Olympics" flag.

The Tibetan Olympics, an event for Tibetans in exile from around the world, will be held in Dharamsala, India — home to the region's government-in-exile — in May.

"Organising the Tibetan Olympics is a good event because we all love sports," Tsering told AFP.

"It will provide a platform for Tibetan youths. They can come and play in different sport events."

Tsering denied that the Tibetan torch relay, which started in New Delhi late last month, had any political overtones.

But officials in China were likely to bristle.

Taiwan last year flatly rejected China's offer of taking the Olympic torch for the 2008 Beijing Games to Taipei, after talks collapsed over the sensitive issues of which flags, songs and emblems would be used on the island's leg.

Chinese Olympic organisers had demanded that only flags, emblems and songs approved by the International Olympic Committee should be used in the Taiwan relay.

Taiwan is not allowed to use its national flags, insignia or songs at IOC events or other international sports competitions.

Taiwan and China split in 1949. Beijing regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 and officially "liberated" it a year later.

The Dalai Lama later fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising and established a government-in-exile in Dharamsala. He has been at odds with the atheist communist government in Beijing ever since.

Copyright © 2008 AFP

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