June 16, 2008
Olympic Torch’s Arrival in Tibet Postponed, Route Kept a Secret
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEIJING - Organizers of the Olympic torch relay said Monday the flame's arrival in Tibet would be postponed, but declined to give an exact date for the torch's journey through the region, which has been shrouded in secrecy.
The torch was originally supposed to travel through Tibet on June 18 or 19 before heading to China's largely Muslim region of Xinjiang and Qinghai province. Instead, it will travel through Xinjiang this week and then head to Tibet, said Li Lizhi of the Beijing Olympic torch relay centre of the organizing committee for the games.
Li refused to give an exact date for the torch's arrival in Tibet.
It was not clear why the change was made, but the route through Tibet has been kept secret. Foreign journalists are still forbidden from entering Tibet, where a violent uprising in ethnic Tibetan areas throughout China in March led to a security clampdown in the region.
The route has been criticized by Tibet activist groups who see it as an attempt by Beijing to symbolize its control over Tibet. China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially independent for much of that time.
The torch's stop in Tibet - originally set for three days - was cut to one last month to make way for a switch in the visit to Sichuan province, the site of the May 12 earthquake.
The torch relay was also stopped for three days after the earthquake to mark an official mourning period.
So far the torch has had a smooth relay in mainland China, uninterrupted by the protests over Tibet and human rights that dogged parts of its international tour.
Last month, Chinese mountaineers raised the Olympic torch at the summit of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, producing the triumphant image that China has longed for in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.
The Everest torch was separate from the main Olympic flame, which is on a three-month tour of China after a one-month trip around the world.
Activists upset with Chinese government policies, especially pro-Tibet independence groups, used the trip around the world to stage protests to highlight their causes.