China Denies I.O.C. Criticism After Official’s Tibet Remarks

After months charging that others were injecting politics into the Olympics, China on Thursday found itself denying an International Olympic Committee accusation that it had politicized the Games.

The incident in question occurred Saturday during the controversial Lhasa leg of the Olympic torch relay, when Zhang Qinglin, the Communist Party leader of Tibet, said: "Tibet's sky will never change and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it. We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique."

That remark prompted the I.O.C. to send a rare letter of reprimand to the Beijing Games organizing committee, known as Bocog. In response, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry told The Associated Press on Thursday that Zhang’s remarks did not represent politicization but instead were meant to encourage a “stable and harmonious environment for the Olympics.”

The International Olympic Committee’s public statement on the matter read: "The I.O.C. regrets that political statements were made during the closing ceremony of the Torch Relay in Tibet. We have written to Bocog to remind them of the need to separate sport and politics and to ask for their support in making sure that such situations do not arise again."

The activist group Reporters Without Borders does not think the I.O.C. rebuke is strong enough — it wants the committee to demand an outright apology from Beijing. "It is not enough for the I.O.C. to express its regret about the extreme gravity of what happened in Tibet," the press freedom organization said in a statement. "The I.O.C.’s president, Jacques Rogge, must request a public apology from those who made these comments and from the Bocog."

Here is CCTV’s English-language report on the Lhasa torch leg. The report does not have Zhang’s remarks, but he can be seen receiving the Olympic torch from a torchbearer, waving it around for a moment, then handing it to the party’s vice chairman for Tibet, Qin Yizhi:

Copyright © 2008 New York Times

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