It’s a pretty well known tradition that before the Olympics start, the torch goes on a worldwide tour, passing through a bunch of different countries before making its way to the host city for the official lighting of the main olympic flame.
Often, the torch is greeted with respect and admiration. People line up to see it as torch bearers carry it through the streets. However, this relay is anything but peaceful and simple. We’ve seen protests in London, Paris, San Francisco. In Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, all over the world. In fact, North Korea has been one of the few countries that has been protest free when the torch came to town.
It’s kind of crazy, because the torch had to repeatedly be extinguished at a bunch of these protests. They made unscheduled route changes, hid on buses, carried it by boat, anything to avoid the thousands of protests out to meet it.
And why protest the torch, you ask? Simple. They’re protesting China’s questionable human rights record. Especially in light of the violent supression of Tibetan activism in recent months. Thousands of Chinese troops have flooded Lhasa to put down what they see as a revolution, but what many others see as a peaceful protest.
People have been killed.
China’s also done very little to help with the situation in Darfur, refusing to put any kind of pressure on the Sudanese government. The list goes on and on. Mistreatment of Falun Gong, suppression of religious activism, questionable actions with regards to Taiwan.
What’s remarkable is that this does seem to be having an effect. World leaders have now begun to mysteriously be unable to attend the opening ceremonies. This, while stopping short of an outright boycott, does send a message to China. It’s been very important for China to feel like they’re making a good reputation, and they’ve done a lot to try to make Beijing cleaner, reduce crime and all of that. All to make a good impression. To have that ruined by these protests has got to sting. It just remains to be seen if this will affect China’s policies at all.