Controversy over SF Olympic torch relay

March 19, 2008 11:15:07 AM PDT
The symbol of the 2008 summer games is coming to San Francisco next month, but there's controversy surrounding this Olympic torch relay.

The games are being held in China, where the government is clashing with the people of Tibet. The torch relay is always one of the most majestic ceremonies leading up to the Olympic Games.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, San Francisco is the only city in North America where the torch will pass.

Demonstrators want the celebration cancelled. They are from Tibet and believe China should be punished for the recent surge in violence.

"We already know the Chinese are killing Tibetans, innocent nuns and monks as we are speaking right now," said Tenzin Dasang from the San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress.

They have a rally at City Hall. San Francisco supervisor Chris Daly has authored a resolution calling on whichever city official accepts the ceremonial flame next month to: "make it publicly known that the torch is received with alarm and protest."

"The Olympics is shining a light on china and china needs to improve their practices when it comes to human rights," said San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly.

Mayor Gavin Newsom says the Olympics should not be used for political purposes.

"I have strong concerns about human rights, I can compartmentalize that and separate it from the spirit of the Olympics," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

San Francisco was apparently chosen because of its large Chinese American community.

Rose Pak is with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, a promoter of the torch relay.

"I can understand people having difficulties with China at any given time. The whole world has problems with the U.S.A at any given time, but that doesn't mean you advocate for disruption," said Pak.

But the city is gearing up for massive demonstrations.

The anticipated protests are going to be a huge challenge. There was a key security meeting on Tuesday.

There are reports the city will use the technique of penning protestors in zones away from the action.

According to the mayor, nothing is set in stone, but these demonstrators are outraged at the possibility.

"If we are not able to stop the torch, at least the mayor should have the guts to let the people of San Francisco protest in a proper way," said Tsering Gyurmey from the Tibet Association.

Meantime the Chinese Consulate believes these protestors are the exception, saying: "A small handful of people are trying to take advantage of the Olympic Games to fulfill their hidden schemes."