Beijing Spokesman: Torch Protests in London are 'Disgusting' Sabotage

Organizers of the Beijing Olympics criticized protesters who tried to disrupt the torch relay in London, saying Monday that the actions were a "disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.

Demonstrators, many of them challenging China's policies in Tibet and Darfur, attempted to grab the torch and block its path during the procession Sunday. One protester tried to put out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

Police said 37 people were arrested for a range of public order offenses. Security for the event was tight, with the torchbearers surrounded by an inner ring of Chinese security agents and an outer ring of British agents to shield them from repeated onslaughts.

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"A few Tibetan separatists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in London, and we strongly denounce their disgusting behavior," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee.

"The act of defiance from this small group of people is not popular. It will definitely be criticized by people who love peace and adore the Olympic spirit. Their attempt is doomed to failure," he said in a telephone interview.

Hundreds along the torch route chanted "Free Tibet!" and "China, talk to Dalai Lama!" and waved placards condemning China's role in Darfur.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Monday he was "very concerned" about the unrest in Tibet and other international issues surrounding the Beijing games.

More protests were expected Monday, when the torch relay winds through Paris.

Protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa turned violent on March 14, and unrest quickly spread to other Tibetan-inhabited areas of western China. Beijing clamped down with a huge mobilization of paramilitary police and has ignored international calls to hold talks with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

China's Communist government said 22 have died in the violence, while supporters of the Dalai Lama have said the death toll was 140.

Activists have also taken aim at China's diplomatic policies in Sudan, saying Beijing is not doing enough to pressure the government, an economic ally, to stop the humanitarian crisis in the country's Darfur region.

China had hoped the torch relay — the longest in the history of the Olympics — would highlight its growing economic and political power. But activists have been demonstrating along the route since the start of the flame's 85,000-mile (140,000-kilometer) journey late last month from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing.

The Summer Olympics kick off in the Chinese capital on Aug. 8.