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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
China and Taiwan in Olympics row
The torch is unveiled at a ceremony in Beijing on 26/04/2007
China says the torch relay is the longest and most inclusive yet
China's government has said it is surprised at Taiwan's rejection of its place on the route of the Olympic torch relay ahead of the 2008 Beijing games.

Officials in Taiwan, seen by China as part of its territory, do not want the torch to enter or leave via China.

The torch is to go from Taiwan to Hong Kong on its way to Beijing.

In a separate row, five Americans held at Mount Everest while protesting against the Tibetan leg of the relay are to be expelled from China.

The executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), Jiang Xiaoyu said he was "surprised by [Taiwan's] attitude and comments".

"BOCOG believes the current attitude of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and its authorities... breached the principle of separating sport from politics as enshrined in the Olympic charter," Mr Jiang said.

Taiwan objection

Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The new Olympic torch
The new design represents an ancient Chinese scroll
The authorities in Beijing regard it as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the rest of China - by force if necessary.

The island is referred to as Chinese Taipei for the Olympics.

On Thursday, the head of Taiwan's Olympic Committee said the route as announced by Beijing "constitutes an attempt to downgrade our sovereignty".

"It is something that the government and people cannot accept," said Tsai Chen-wei.

While many in Taiwan are said to be keen for the torch to come, some fear that if the route directly links the island with China it would appear to endorse Beijing's view that Taiwan is part of its territory.

Tibet protest

The Olympic flame will be carried through 20 cities in five continents on its 137,000km (85,000-mile) journey.

Following Olympic tradition, the torch will be lit on 25 March in Greece at the site of the ancient Olympics.

It will then be transferred to Beijing from where it will travel across Central Asia to Europe, South America and Africa before reaching Asia again.

On its final leg, it will be carried through China by a series of athletes, celebrities and specially-chosen members of the public to Beijing in time for the opening ceremony of the games on 8 August.

Activists unfurl the banner at Everest base camp - 25 April 2007
The Everest protest highlights some political concerns over the games
A highlight of the journey is expected to be the torch's planned ascent in May of the world's highest mountain, Everest, which straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal.

But its path through Tibet has already triggered protests from critics of Beijing's rule. China occupied Tibet in 1950 and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, lives in exile in India.

The five US activists, detained at the Everest base camp on the Tibetan side of the mountain on Wednesday, had unfurled a banner calling for Tibet's independence.

China's foreign ministry said the five were detained for "carrying out illegal activities aimed at splitting China".

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