No justification for marring Olympic torch run: Komura

by Reiji Yoshida

The torch relay for the Beijing Olympics should not be blocked by protesters, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tuesday.

“We have called for calm from both sides (China and the Tibetan protesters),” Komura told reporters. “We cannot condone the torch relay being stopped by violence, whatever the reason.”

The government has maintained a cautious diplomatic stance toward China over the crackdown in Tibet, what with Chinese President Hu Jintao planning to visit Japan in early May to meet with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

On April 2, Fukuda indicated Tokyo will not participate in any boycott of the Olympics opening ceremony, saying, “Nobody hopes for this.”

The Olympic torch is scheduled to arrive in Nagano Prefecture from Australia on April 26 on its way from Athens to Beijing. Protesters in Turkey, London and Paris have already tried to block the torch relay.

To control spectators and traffic, the city of Nagano plans to mobilize 850 volunteers and 350 officials as well as an undisclosed number of security guards at 300 locations along the 18.5-km course there.

The city has reportedly boosted its security budget to ¥6 million from ¥4.5 million to increase the number of security guards who will monitor the ceremony venue and the streets.

Asked if Japan, the host country of this year’s Group of Eight summit in July, will take up the Tibetan protest during the meeting, Komura said: “It depends on the situation at the time (of the summit). I hope the situation will make taking up the topic unnecessary.”

Petition for dialogue

Sixty-five Japanese TV celebrities, musicians and intellectuals jointly called on the Chinese government on Tuesday to end human rights abuses against the Tibetan people and immediately enter into direct talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader.

Most on the list are familiar to Japanese people. Among them are model Ayako Kawahara, actress Kirin Kiki, comedian Masaaki Sakai, poet Shuntaro Tanigawa, writer Natsuki Ikezawa and singers Iruka, UA, Yoshikazu Mera and Yu Hayami, as well as musicians Shokichi Kano, Haruomi Hosono, Mickey Yoshino and Sadao Watanabe.

“We request that top Chinese leaders quickly and directly meet the 14th Dalai Lama and start a dialogue,” the statement said.

The statement also criticized China’s “false campaigns” that characterize the Dalai Lama as a political activist who has instigated violent, destructive antigovernment movements in Tibet.