Olympic Flame Used As Focus Of Protests

This story was written by Matthew Reagan, The Shorthorn
The Olympic torch relay gained international attention recently as a result of groups in many countries protesting the run.

This state of affairs has caught the interest of several university students, professors and organizations.

The torch is on an 85,000 mile journey, spanning 21 countries in 39 days, before ending up in China where the 2008 Olympic Games will begin in August.

Protesters from Paris, London, to San Francisco are making their voices heard over what they feel are human rights violations by the Chinese government against the Tibetan people.

In London, 37 pro-Tibet demonstrators were arrested Sunday after clashing with police in an effort to disrupt the torch's route and extinguish the flame, according to London police reports.

The Associated Press reported that protesters in Paris made similar attempts to put out the torch with fire extinguishers Monday and relay officials were forced to abandon the run. Paris police said they made 25 arrests in connection with the protest and were forced to extinguish the torch and put it on a bus to keep it safe.

Some European Union members have called for a complete boycott of the Olympics this summer, saying the Chinese government's treatment of Tibet and lack of human rights necessitates it. President George W. Bush, in a phone call to Chinese leaders, said the United States would not participate in the boycott of the Communist regime, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympic games in Russia in response to Soviet troops occupying parts of Afghanistan.

James Chen, Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars adviser at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the protests should not be directed toward the Olympic games.

"I think from every angle you can see people have a right to protest, but this is a separate issue. People should make every effort to make the Olympic games successful," he said. "China can do much better from the human rights standpoint, but I think if people protest and boycott, it won't get any better. Every person in every country should have their point of view and not everyone agrees with their policy, but [China] does understand they have something to improve."

Psychology senior Maiko Akiyoshi, the university's International Modern Buddhists vice president, said the obstruction of the torch relay is detrimental to the original idea behind the Olympics.

"It is so sad and the torch is such a wonderful symbol. Picking on it kind of seems like a waste," she said. "[The torch] represents something that could be very positive and [these acts] are destructive."

Rishi Wadhwa, material science and engineering graduate student and International Modern Buddhists president, has a somewhat different view on the protests and the Chinese government's treatment of Tibetans.

"Some countries have taken the path of war to achieve peace. How can they talk about peace? The Olympic games are a forum to show true manifest potential. That purpose is being lost by killing [Tibetans]," he said. "The protesters and [Tibetans] should have heart-to-heart dialogue with the [Chinese] government. Otherwise, the purpose of the Olympics is lost."

The torch relay will make its way to San Francisco on Wednesday. CNN reported that three protesters climbed the arches of the Golden Gate Bridge and hung flags reading "Free Tibet 08" and "One World, One Dream."
© 2008 The Shorthorn via U-WIRE