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Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 16:29 UK

Protest kits for Aussie athletes

Tibetan students protest in New Delhi on 24 May 2008
The pack contains transfers of the red, blue and gold Tibetan flag

A campaign group in Australia is offering Olympics athletes and supporters a protest kit to highlight their concerns over Tibet.

The pack includes a T-shirt bearing the words "I support human rights" in English and Chinese, badges, stickers and temporary tattoos of Tibet's flag.

The T-shirt slogan was specially chosen to avoid making explicit reference to Tibet and contravening Olympic rules.

But backers admit that those using the kit may still "face consequences".

In March, Chinese authorities suppressed the biggest protests against Chinese rule in Tibet in two decades.

Many campaigners for Tibetan independence have used China's hosting of the Olympic Games as a platform to publicise their cause.

Risks

"Going right back to March, people have been approaching us and asking how they can help Tibet in Beijing," Simon Bradshaw, campaign co-ordinator for the Australia Tibet Council (ATC), told Reuters news agency.

But he warned that the packs could be confiscated by Chinese authorities at the airport, or could contravene Australian Olympic Committee rules and be barred from the Olympic village.

There is "no doubt that athletes who choose to make public statements over Tibet may face consequences", he said.

Launching the packs on Monday, former Olympic swimmer Michelle Engelsman said that whether athletes decided to speak out at the Games was up to them.

"It is important to bear in mind that the athletes also have the right to focus on their sport," she said.

But she said she hoped that athletes might choose to use the protest items - available on request and in confidence from the ATC - once they had finished competing.

A spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee, Mike Tancred, told AP news agency that his organisation recommended that no athlete travelling to China take the kit in case the contents "antagonised" other competitors.


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