Page last updated at 19:46 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 20:46 UK

Envoy 'will carry Olympic torch'

Olympic torch in Athens
Pro-Tibetan activists disrupted the lighting ceremony

China has denied its ambassador will pull out of the Olympic torch relay through London on Sunday.

It had been reported that Fu Ying would withdraw, with protests planned over the Chinese government's treatment of Tibetan demonstrators.

But the Chinese embassy in London now says the ambassador has "no intention" of pulling out of the event.

Hundreds of Chinese students in the UK are planning counter-demonstrations in support of the Beijing games.

A statement from the Chinese embassy said: "There has never been a view expressed from the Chinese embassy at any point that the ambassador is pulling out of the torch relay. She did not say so herself either."

Tim Henman, Kelly Holmes and Kevin Pietersen will be among the 80 torch bearers named on Thursday and it will be carried 31 miles through 10 London boroughs.

The torch was lit in Olympia, Greece, on Sunday and will go through 20 countries before being carried into the Beijing Games' opening ceremony on 8 August.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will welcome the torch outside 10 Downing Street.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says Chinese student groups believe several hundred of their members will demonstrate in support of the games along the torch relay route.

I would say to those that do come to demonstrate: 'do so lawfully and we'll allow it, but if you try and disrupt the torch or you try and grab the torch we'll be there to stop you
Cmdr Bob Broadhurst,
Metropolitan Police

Xun Zhang, of the Overseas Chinese Students for the Olympics Association, said: "I think sometimes it is hard to separate political issues from the Olympic games, especially when the political issues are artificially distorted and exaggerated.

"As in the case of the so-called Tibetan crisis, in my opinion, is grossly exaggerated.

"It should not be occupying the centre of international attention at the moment - especially not interfering with the Olympic Games."

Our correspondent says that one pro-Beijing paper, published in London, has accused the BBC of "misunderstanding" the situation in Tibet.

But Phurbu Rinzin, a Tibetan living in the UK, said he was going to demonstrate peacefully because the Olympics symbolise "unity, friendship, open-ness and respect for all human values".

"I'm not against the Olympics in China, I'm against the Olympic torch going inside Tibet - because as you have seen recently, it's been like a massacre in Tibet," he said.

Chinese interpreters

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said legal demonstrations were a democratic right: "We want the flame to come here so we can get ready for the Olympic Games this summer and build excitement about that.

"But if people wish to make a protest that is their democratic right. And I've said many times that the Olympic Games puts you in the spotlight, and that's a good thing in many ways in that your country is the focus of the world.

"But at the same time it may be uncomfortable because it shines the spotlight on everything that happens within your country."

The 2012 Olympics might well bring unprecedented benefits to politicians and business owners
Silenced Majority

The Metropolitan Police said it was aware of plans to disrupt the torch procession on Sunday.

"There are plans and I would say to those that do come to demonstrate: 'do so lawfully and we'll allow it, but if you try and disrupt the torch or you try and grab the torch we'll be there to stop you, so please don't do it'," said Cmdr Bob Broadhurst.

The police will also have Chinese interpreters on hand and any insulting banners will be confiscated, our correspondent said.

There were scuffles between police and pro-Tibet protestors when the torch was handed to Chinese officials in Athens at the end of last month.

Tibet's government-in-exile, based in India, says about 140 people were killed in the crackdown on recent unrest by Chinese security forces. Beijing disputes this, saying 19 people were killed by rioters.

There has been little movement internationally towards a boycott of the Games, although French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said "all options are open" following the recent unrest in Tibet.

1: Wembley 1030BST
2: Ladbroke Grove 1100
3: British Museum 1220
4: China Town 1230
5: Trafalgar Square 1250
6: Southbank Centre 1330
7: Somerset House 1415
8: St Paul's Cathedral 1430
9: Potter's Fields 1500
10: Whitchapel Road 1530
11: Stratford 1600
12: Canary Wharf 1700
13: North Greenwich 1800
Source: Mayor of London

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22 Feb 08 |  Olympics

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