Page last updated at 05:36 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 06:36 UK

Head-to-head: Torch protests

Is it acceptable for protesters to disrupt the progress of the Olympic torch?

Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, who carried the torch during the protest-hit London relay, says "no". But Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet and one of the organisers of anti-China demonstrations targeting the relay in San Francisco, disagrees.


The protests - definitely they had a right to do them, and it was a good stage for them to make their point on, but I don't agree with them trying to stop the torch.

Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radcliffe says the Olympics' message should not be stopped
A peaceful protest on the sidelines - fine. But don't try to stop the torch, because the torch is about more than the Beijing Olympics. It's about the Olympic spirit and the importance of the Olympics in teaching youth, and teaching the world, what sport can do - how sport can bring people together, how it can overcome suffering, how it has overcome even wars in the past.

It's a very powerful thing, and trying to stop the torch was trying to stop that message, so that was wrong.

By taking part in the relay, I do not condone China's human rights record and what they are doing, but I do totally condone and fully back everything that the Olympics is about and everything the Olympics is trying to do.

By going out there and competing, by the rules, 100% clean, that's the strongest message you can send via the Olympics.

The Olympics is about every person, wherever they come from in the world, having that opportunity to go out there and prepare as hard as they can and to perform as well as they can... That is what I think should be the strongest message from Beijing.


The key is that the Chinese government cares what the world thinks. This is why they are organising the Olympics and why they are doing this global torch relay.

Lhadon Tethong
Lhadon Tethong says torch relay protests send a powerful message
They want the world to accept China as a leader on the world stage and to look away from their human rights record. They want to convince the world that Tibet belongs to China and that Tibetans are happy and prosperous under Chinese rule.

I think for people in Tibet right now we need to do everything we can to shine a spotlight on them, to mitigate the damage and crackdown that's going on there and to push for a long-term solution.

They have put themselves in a no-win situation by wanting global approval and wanting people to welcome and celebrate them around the world - when in fact they are getting just the opposite message.

This is not something that will be overlooked by them and by China's young future decision-makers. Whether they agree with us or not, they will understand that there is a serious problem in the world because of their occupation of Tibet and their policies there, and hopefully we can push them towards change.

These protesters are doing the wrong thing, using the wrong method, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, to send the wrong message
Beijiner, Shanghai

I am Tibetan as well as an activist, and this is our moment, our opportunity to say to the Chinese government that where we live in the world, you cannot bring your lies on Tibet and have everybody just accept them. In San Francisco, in Paris and London, wherever you may go, people will be there to speak the truth.

It's a very simple thing, but it's a very powerful message for the Chinese government and especially for Tibetans at this time, when they are suffering so greatly inside Tibet.

China wanted the spotlight and it is going to get it. The Chinese government cannot control who gets in that spotlight or what issue they talk about... When September comes, Tibet of course won't be free but we will have made significant progress in teaching and showing the Chinese leadership that there is a real problem that they cannot just sweep under the carpet, which must be addressed.

Paula Radcliffe was interviewed by BBC Sport's Matt Slater, and Lhadon Tethong spoke to BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight.

Torch lit in Olympia on 24 March and taken on five-day relay around Greece to Athens
After handover ceremony, it is taken to Beijing on 31 March to begin a journey of 136,800 km (85,000 miles) around the world
Torch arrives in Macao on 3 May. After three-month relay all around China, it arrives in Beijing for opening ceremony on 8 August


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