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Torch 'thugs' from elite Tibet force

Games not political? you must be joking.

I love the Australian governments comments. Stick it to em Aussies.
No damned chinese paramilitary on Aussie soil. Laughing Laughing Laughing


Torch 'thugs' from elite Tibet force
The Age
Mary-Anne Toy and Misha Schubert
April 10, 2008

BEIJING euphemistically calls them torch "escorts" or "flame attendants" but the Chinese guards in blue tracksuits surrounding the Olympic torch in London and Paris are elite members of the paramilitary units used to crush dissent in Tibet.

As the revelation emerged yesterday, the International Olympic committee said China had a right to supply escorts for the Beijing Games torch on its journey around the world, saying this was "normal".

Beijing's Olympic organising committee insisted the group of 20 to 30 flame attendants from Beijing were there merely to help with practicalities such as relighting the torch if necessary, and were trained in "torch etiquette" only.

But the Shanghai-based Labour Daily newspaper, quoting Zhao Si, head of the elite unit, said its members were picked in 2007 from the People's Armed Police, China's 660,000-strong paramilitary force that mostly deals with internal security. Thousands of PAP forces are still deployed throughout Tibet and Tibetan regions of western China since monk-led protests on March 10 degenerated into a violent riot in Lhasa on March 14.

Pictures of the guards at a swearing-in ceremony, after undergoing special physical, etiquette and language training at the PAP training academy in Beijing, show their official name as "The Protection Team for the Holy Flame of the 29th Olympic Games".

"These men, chosen from around the country, are each tall and large and are eminently talented and powerful," Mr Zhao told Labour Daily. "Their outstanding physical quality is not in the slightest inferior to that of specialised athletes."

The guards are flying on a chartered Air China jet that carries the back-up "Olympic lanterns" that each contain a flame from which the torch is lit or relit.

British television presenter Konnie Huq, a torch-bearer caught up in a clash between protesters and the flame attendants in London, said the Chinese guards shouted orders at her and pushed her arm to make her lift the torch higher. "They were very robotic, very full on, and actually I noticed them having skirmishes with our own police and the Olympic authorities before our leg of the relay," she said.

A leading London Olympics chief was overheard describing the escorts as "thugs".

Lord Sebastian Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and chairman of London's Olympic organising committee, who called them thugs, said their behaviour was "horrible". Later he said his remarks, heard by British television, were meant to be private.

"They tried to push me out of the way three times. They are horrible," Lord Coe was overhead by Channel Four as saying in London. "They did not speak English I think they were thugs."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd repeated the Australian line that China would not be allowed to provide security for the torch during its run through Canberra on April 24.

But sources in the Rudd camp conceded that two of the "attendants" in blue tracksuits would be allowed to travel with the torch to keep flame alight.

ACT police said they would not have police powers. "I have seen what occurred in London and I can tell you that type of security arrangement will not be occurring here," Canberra police chief Michael Phelan said on Tuesday.

The ACT Government did not respond yesterday when asked if it would change its mind if the Chinese runners were paramilitary.

A spokesman for federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland refused to say whether the Government would take a dim view of letting "flame attendants" into the country if they were paramilitary police.

He said the Federal Government, the ACT Chief Minister and the ACT chief police officer had made it clear that security for the Australian leg of the torch relay would be handled by federal and ACT police.

For the Sydney Games in 2000, at least one uniformed guard followed the torch.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, security officials escorted the torch throughout the 2004 relay for the Athens Games.
Considering the success a bunch of braindeads had in killing the flame twice before, I think it's a sort of expectable measure.
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