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Jakarta Olympic relay cut short.

4/22/2008 7:38:24 AM

The Olympic flame has landed in Indonesia amid tight security for a shortened and invitation-only relay designed to prevent protests that have embarrassed China on previous legs.

Ahead of Tuesday's run at Jakarta's national stadium, police swooped on a group of human rights activists protesting against China's recent crackdown in Tibet, with several arrests.

Eight were released after being questioned, while a Dutch man was taken to Jakarta police headquarters.

Members of the public were barred from attending Tuesday's relay where bearers will take turns carrying the torch around a stadium in Jakarta's Senayan sports complex.

Taking no chances, Indonesia has deployed about 2,500 security personnel to maintain order around stadium.

Route change

Troubled Torch

March 24 - Human rights protesters breach security to try to disrupt the torch-lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece

March 30 - Tibet activists try to stop flame entering Athens stadium for handover to Chinese officials

April 6 - Thousands of pro-Tibet protesters line relay route through London, scuffles break out with police and 35 are arrested

April 7 Co Flame extinguished at least twice during Paris relay, forcing the torch-carrier onto a bus to escape protesters

April 9 - San Francisco abruptly changes torch route fearing clashes between pro-Tibet protesters and pro-China counter-protesters

April 17 Co New Delhi deploys 15,000 police and security guards during radically shortened relay through Indian capital. Dozens of Tibetan exiles arrested

April 19 Co 2,000 police protect Bangkok relay as crowd of about 200 China supporters taunt scores of pro-Tibet demonstrators

Indonesia originally planned for the torch to be paraded through Jakarta's streets and busy Chinatown, but the route was changed at the request of the Chinese embassy.

Indonesian officials said they had permitted three groups to protest against China's rule of Tibet at the stadium, but only well before the start of the relay.

The troubled Olympic flame has been kept under close guard at a five-star hotel since it arrived in Jakarta from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in the early hours of Tuesday.

In Malaysia on Monday, security forces police quickly squashed a protest by three Japanese, who unfurled the Tibetan flag and yelled "Free Tibet" before getting roughed up by Chinese supporters of the games.

Last week in India the torch's run was whittled down to a dash under the guard of massive 15,000-strong police presence through a tightly-guarded government sector in New Delhi.

Previous legs of the torch relay in Europe and the US were marked by clashes between police and protesters demonstrating against China's human rights record

'Hooliganism' fears

On Monday Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said he feared an outbreak of "football hooliganism" at the Australian leg of the torch relay with thousands of pro-China and pro-Tibet activists massing for demonstrations.

Police in the capital Canberra have erected steel fences along Thursday's relay, while organisers announced that the route through the city had been shortened by four kilometres.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association in Australia last week said it hoped 10,000 students and Chinese Australians would mass in Canberra for the relay to guard against anti-China "scum" and "running dogs."

Venue change

In Japan, an ancient Japanese Buddhist temple which cancelled its role in the relay was vandalised with white spray paint, police said on Sunday.

The Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics, announced last week that it was withdrawing as the start point for the Japanese leg of the relay on April 26 because of China's crackdown in Tibet.

Protests against Chinese rule rocked Tibet last month in one of the worst outbreaks of violence there since Chinese forces seized control of the Himalayan region in 1950.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people died in the government crackdown on protesters but China says rioters killed 18 civilians and two police officers.

Beijing says the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, is behind the unrest but he denies that claim.

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Publication:Aljazeera.net
Date:Jul 13, 2008
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