Beijing: China appealed for understanding over actions of its controversial Olympic torch relay security guards, who have recently come under fire for their heavy-handed tactics.
“Relevant countries should have a clear understanding of the rules of the escorts and understand their work,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
“Faced with disruption of the relay, they used their bodies to protect the torch. Their actions should be appraised and supported by people around the world.”
China’s security earns ire of other countries
Security escorts, who have been shadowing the flame around the world, are from China’s People’s Armed Police, a spin-off from the military that is used for internal security and suppressing unrest.
They have come under fire for brusquely pushing aside local officials and security forces as well as demonstrators, who have used some legs of the torch relay to protest China’s human rights record and its rule of Tibet.
Sebastian Coe, head of the organizing committee for the London 2012 Games, was overheard as describing them as “thugs” when the torch came to the British capital.
Japan’s security minister said last week that he was opposed to letting China send its security guards to protect the Olympic torch, which comes to the central mountain city of Nagano on April 26.
“It is our principle that Japanese police are in charge of security. It is our role to protect the relay,” the minister, Shinya Izumi, said on Friday. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also said that the Chinese would have no security role in Canberra.
But China has defended the role of the security guards, pointing out that providing escorts for the flame is common practice, in line with the rules of the Olympic Games.The Olympic torch has so far travelled through Russia, Britain, France, the United States, Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan.
Protests against China’s human rights record and its policies in Tibet and Sudan have marred torch runs in London, Paris and San Francisco. Some two dozen Tibetan exiles chanted anti-China slogans and protested along a busy highway as the torch made its way into the Indian capital of New Delhi on Thursday.
Indian leg of Olympic relay poised to start under massive security
The Indian leg of the global Olympic torch has mapped out a short route virtually sealed off to the public by thousands of police and soldiers.
The Olympic flame was brought to the start of the relay route, and guarded by a huge security cordon including truck-mounted water cannons.
Indian officials have scaled back the relay to a mere 2.3 kilometre (1.5 mile) jog along an avenue running from the presidential palace to India Gate.
70 sports figures, entertainers and others are lined up for the torch run, including Bollywood actors Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan and tennis player Leander Paes.
An estimated 16,000 police and soldiers have been mobilised to protect the relay -- outnumbering groups of schoolboys and other selected onlookers allowed into the relay zone.
The round-the-world relay has been dogged by protests, notably in London and Paris, over China’s military crackdown in Tibet and its human rights record.
The next stage is set to begin today in New Delhi.