JAKARTA, Indonesia – Police briefly detained at least eight people and seized flags from pro-Tibet activists Tuesday during a rowdy demonstration against the Olympic torch relay in Indonesia.
Water cannons and 3,000 officers were deployed around the main sports stadium in the bustling capital, Jakarta, where the parade was held before a small, invitation-only crowd, said deputy police chief Herri Wibowo.
Jakarta's governor started the relay, becoming the first of 80 torchbearers to follow a route that circled the stadium five times instead of running through the streets of Jakarta as originally planned.
The Chinese Embassy had insisted the Jakarta relay be shortened and open only to 5,000 invited guests, many of them local school children. The only other country to make the event invite-only so far was Pakistan, which cited security fears.
"I am excited to witness history," said Andrea Putri, 15. "This kind of thing does not happen every day."
Protesters angry at China's human rights record or demanding Tibetan independence have attempted to disrupt the torch relay in Greece, Britain, France and the United States.
Tri Agus Siswowiharjo, one of seven Indonesians arrested, said he was protesting Beijing's crackdown last month on protesters in Tibet.
"I am completely peaceful," said the Dutch man, identified by local media as Stef Bolte. He was among eight people led away by plainclothes officers, all of whom were later released. "I am protesting human rights violations in Tibet."
The torch arrived under dark, rainy skies at the Bung Karno Stadium, where about 100 demonstrators turned out at the front gate. It is the first time the Olympic torch has been to Indonesia, but it has attracted little interest in the media or public, perhaps in part because the Games themselves are not very popular.
Indonesia was the only country in the world not to air TV broadcasts of the 2004 Games in Athens.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, two South Koreans slated to run in the Olympic torch relay on Sunday said they would boycott the Seoul leg to protest China's crackdown on Tibet.
An Australian torchbearer also said she was pulling out of Thursday's relay in Canberra out of concerns over China's human rights record.
Also on Tuesday, officials at Zenkoji in Japan, which was often showcased during the Nagano Games, announced Tuesday they will co-host a prayer ritual for Tibet on the morning of the Japanese leg of the relay Saturday.
Last week, Zenkoji officials they would not make good on their promises to host the start of the relay event, citing security concerns and unease among its monks and supporters over China's treatment of their fellow Buddhists in Tibet.