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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Tattoo kicks off amid protests
Estonian performer
An Estonian performer during dress rehearsals for this year's Tattoo
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has begun its three-week sell-out run amid protests in the Scottish capital.

Tickets for the show, which runs from 6 to 28 August, sold out weeks ago - breaking previous box office records.

The largest gathering of military acts in the UK brings together units from across the world, including the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Its appearance angered campaigners, who demonstrated peacefully outside Edinburgh Castle on the opening night.

Security at the event has been tighter than ever, with checks on everyone entering the venue.

However, police said they were happy with the behaviour of the protestors on Friday night.

The Free Tibet Campaign asked the audience not to applaud the PLA's performance, but most ignored their request and gave the army a resounding welcome.

Warm welcome

Acts from South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and the Far East are performing alongside members of the Royal Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the King's Own Scottish Borderers regiments.

A total of 220,000 people are expected to attend the event at Edinburgh Castle during its run.

At Thursday's full dress rehearsal, Tattoo chief executive and producer, Brigadier Melville Jameson, praised the PLA band.

He said: "I was delighted that not only have they got spectacular and musically brilliant acts, which I think all the audiences are going to enjoy but also that they received such a very warm welcome."

The Chinese army has been responsible for torture, for judicial killing and for cultural genocide in Tibet
Chris Ballance MSP
Green MSP
However, a number of organisations are angry at the inclusion of the PLA in the 55th Tattoo.

Despite claims from the organisers that their appearance is a musical and not a political decision, protesters say the PLA's human rights record means their presence is inappropriate and offensive.

The Free Tibet Campaign and Scottish followers of the Falun Gong movement - banned in China - both intend to protest outside the event throughout the run.

The tattoo's organisers have said they will tolerate and allow peaceful, organised protest but security is being stepped up inside the arena to ensure the daily performances are not affected.

'Repressive regime'

Chris Ballance, Green MSP for the South of Scotland, tabled a motion in parliament condemning the invitation of the PLA.

He said the Chinese regime was the most repressive in the world.

Mr Ballance said: "The Chinese army has been responsible for torture, for judicial killing and for cultural genocide in Tibet. It is important that a visit like this does not go without remark being made about this.

"The Tibetan people are imprisoned for years simply for having a picture of the Dalai Lama. It is wholly inappropriate for this visit and for this invitation to such a prestigious event."

The BBC's Razia Iqbal
"There is concern that Edinburgh might not continue to keep its crown as king of festivals"

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10 Apr 03  |  Scotland

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