Socialist Worker

Flames of anger in London at China's crackdown in Tibet

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2096

Police and Chinese secret service agents surrounded the Olympic flame as thousands demonstrated in London last Sunday against China

Police and Chinese secret service agents surrounded the Olympic flame as thousands demonstrated in London last Sunday against China's repression in Tibet (Pic: »&nbs

The Olympic flame relay through London last Sunday descended into an embarrassing farce for both the Chinese and the British authorities as the televised event was dogged by protests against China's brutal crackdown in Tibet.

Demonstrators lined the route waving Tibetan flags and 'Free Tibet' placards.

Others heckled and shouted at the 'celebrities' taking part in the relay, while some attempted to block the route and snuff out the Olympic flame.

Left List supporters in east London were among those joining the protests – which were called by the Free Tibet group and Amnesty International to highlight the Chinese government's repression of the Tibetan people.

'There were about a dozen of us following the torch around,' one Left List supporter told Socialist Worker. 'A few had a go at trying to grab a torch – but the police rugby tackled them to the ground.

'The backdrop is that people were furious about the news from Tibet. At least eight people were machine gunned by the Chinese authorities last week.

'Gordon Brown welcomed the torch, as did London mayor Ken Livingstone. They talk of 'positive engagement' with China, but it's just cowardly crawling.'


Even some of those taking part in the official Olympics events held protests. 'My school choir was singing in Stratford in front of around 200 people,' Robbie, aged 11, told Socialist Worker.

'I thought it was wrong what they were doing in Tibet, so I got a couple of A4 sheets with Free Tibet written on them. Me and one of my mates held them up at the end of the performance. Our conductor came up afterwards and said, 'Well done – good for you'.'

Lindsey German, the Left List's candidate for mayor, condemned the heavy-handed security operation. 'Whether in London or Beijing, people have a right to protest,' she said.

'Police attempts to remove Free Tibet T-shirts and flags from protestors are totally unacceptable in a democratic country. The parade was a farce.'

Many protesters were not just angry at the Chinese government, but also at the failure of the London 2012 Olympics to deliver anything for ordinary people.

'There are megabucks being spent on the Olympics and none for us,' said one local protester. 'The whole torch event was covered in corporate logos from Coca-Cola and Fuji.

'Newham is the Olympic borough and there's a feeling here that resources are being spent on the Olympics that are being taken from elsewhere in the borough.'

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Article information

Tue 8 Apr 2008, 19:57 BST
Issue No. 2096
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