Wednesday, 09 April 2008 19:00 Gordon Fairclough Editorial Dept - Asia
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The troubled journey of the torch is stirring anger among people in Shanghai and Beijing at what they feel is unfair treatment of China.

"Chinese people should all be indignant," said Du Chunhua, who works for a trading company in the Chinese capital. "I think it's really bad that they are trying to ruin such a peaceful event."

Activists have spent months planning similar protests for San Francisco, where the torch will travel Wednesday. It made a difficult journey through a snowy London Sunday, where a protester managed to break through security and momentarily grip it.

Many, if not most, Chinese, however, see their country as freer -- and more prosperous -- than at any time in their lifetimes. For them, the Games are seen as a celebration of their economic, political and social progress.

The protesters "should come here and see for themselves," said Han Hailing, 26, an urban planner in Beijing. "They don't understand what's going on here. But you can't blame them, either. They're getting wrong information from the media."

Ms. Han said "every government has its problems," but added: "I have to say the Chinese government is right" on the way it is handling Tibet. "The government has already invested a lot" in Tibet and other ethnic-minority areas, she said.

Such sentiments have drawn ethnic Chinese to the defense of China and the torch. In Paris, Tibetan protesters faced off in a shouting match with China supporters waving the country's red and gold national flag and chanting "Bravo, Beijing."

Shen Shuang, a 27-year-old woman from China, said she traveled to Paris from Marseille to show her support for the Beijing Olympics. With her face painted with Chinese flags, she ran alongside the convoy dodging protesters who blew whistles at her. "I can keep this up all day," she said.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympics, Monday criticized protesters who tried to disrupt the relay in London. "A few Tibetan separatists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in London, and we strongly denounce their disgusting behavior," Mr. Sun said.

China this year is marking the 30th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's decision to turn away from central planning and toward markets and to reopen China to the rest of the world.

These changes have transformed China from a Communist backwater to the world's fourth-largest economy.

Cheng Hongyu, a 25-year-old French-language student, said the protesters "don't live here. From their perspective, they are seeing problems, but they don't see the whole picture."

by GORDON FAIRCLOUGH in Shanghai, STACY MEICHTRY and MAX COLCHESTER in Paris and LORETTA CHAO in Beijing.
Article and Image provided by the Unity Party WA



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