China attempts to prove bogus claim to Tibet with torch ascent of Everest

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Chinese state media has announced that climbers carrying the Olympic torch had reached the summit of Mt Everest at 0920 local time today.

The Chinese government had shrouded the ascent in secrecy: western journalists had not been allowed to film the departure of the climbing team from Base Camp and the mountain had been closed to climbers on both the Nepalese and Tibetan sides in an attempt to stop pro-Tibet protesters from demonstrating on the mountain against the torch being taken up Everest.

China’s determination to make a political point by taking the torch to the summit of Everest had been made imperative following the recent protests in Tibet. The protests demonstrated Tibetans’ emphatic rejection of the Chinese government’s claim that its rule in Tibet is legitimate.

Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said: "China has made Tibet a central theme of its Olympics propaganda exercise. By taking the torch up the Tibetan side of Everest during the domestic Chinese leg of the Torch Relay, China is clearly attempting to underscore its baseless claims to sovereignty over Tibet.”

One of the mountaineers said: “We have lit this torch on the top of the world for harmony and peace”, according to the BBC. Sources inside Tibet, however, have said that tensions are mounting in anticipation of the Olympic torch being paraded triumphantly through The Tibetan Autonomous Region between 19 and 21 June. China is using increasingly repressive tactics to clear a path free of protests for the torch. Tibetan monks are being forced to undergo “patriotic re-education” sessions whilst laypeople are being forced to engage in other “patriotic” activities. House to house searches and sweeping arrests are building a climate of fear at odds with China’s message of “harmony and peace”.

A worldwide coalition of Tibet groups has written to the International Olympic Committee and to the sponsors of the Torch Relay demanding that Tibet be removed from the Olympic Torch Relay. The Tibet groups pointed to the certainty of the torch provoking a humanitarian disaster in Tibet, with Tibetans certain to protest and the governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Jampa Phuntsog, having said “we will not be merciful” with Tibetan protesters.

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign


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