China Says No Change to Taiwan Torch Relay

beijing-logo.gifBy William J. Furney
The Bali Times

JIMBARAN ~ Taiwan’s refusal to allow the Olympic torch relay to Taipei because of its assertion of political interference by Beijing will not alter the route of the torch as it leaves Athens ahead of the Beijing Olympics next year, a Chinese Olympic official told The Bali Times on Wednesday.

“I think it’s just an explanation difference from China mainland and Taiwan … I think we will solve this problem sooner or later,” Dong Mei, deputy division chief of the Beijing Olympic Committee’s International Relations Department told The Times on the sidelines of the Olympic Council of Asia Regional Forum here this week.

“I think there will be no problem … I think everything will cool down. I don’t think there will be any more insistence,” she said.

The forum, from June 20 to 21, discussed the upcoming Beijing Games, the first-ever Asian Beach Games – being held in Bali next October – and other matters, the organizers said.

Chen Ming-tong, the head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said after the touch relay plan was announced in April: “I am quite pessimistic. If Beijing makes no new proposals, there is no way the torch can come to Taiwan.”

The council is concerned that as Taipei is the last city the torch enters before moving on to Hong Kong and other cities in China, it is “a pretext for a brazen attempt to downgrade Taiwan” to a Chinese territory.

Taipei has called for the torch to travel to another city after leaving Taiwan before entering China.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei are testy at best and highly sensitive. The two split in 1949 at the end of a civil war but Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory.

Dong told The Times that no changes would be made to the existing route for the torch, which is to travel through every continent on earth, including to the highest point on the planet, Mount Everest, where a road is being constructed for the purpose, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Games are on schedule, and most facilities will be completed by the end of this year, with the National Stadium, which will be used for the opening ceremony, finished in early February 2008, “ahead of schedule,” Dong said.

Some 20 million people were expected to arrive in the Chinese capital for the global sporting event, she said, adding that because new hotels had been built, there would be “no problem … accommodating the whole world for the Games.”

The total budget for the sporting spectacular was more than US$2.5 billion, she said.

Dong dismissed criticism of the Beijing event over a wide range of issues, from pollution to China’s human rights record.

“The air pollution is not a short-term plan; it’s a long-term result … we have a very thorough plan for limited car emissions, plenty more trees – all the citizens will plant trees every year, to make a very environmentally friendly atmosphere. We restrict a lot of very bad factories, to just limit their production, just to secure the environmental protection,” she said.

On her country’s human rights, she said she had received nothing but support from delegations and press when traveling overseas.

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