China's Premier Says Protesters in Tibet are Targeting Olympics

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says Tibetan protesters are trying to undermine the Beijing Olympics.

Speaking Tuesday on the final day of China's annual legislative session, Wen said the protests went against the wishes of the Chinese people to host a successful Olympics in August.

"By staging that incident they want to undermine the Beijing Olympic Games," Wen said. "And they also try to serve their hidden agenda by inciting such incidents."

"The Beijing Olympics will be a grand gathering for people from around the world," Wen said. "We need to respect the principles of the Olympics and the Olympic charter and we should not politicize the games."

Several days of anti-Chinese riots in Tibet's capital have focused attention on China's human rights record with the games fewer than five months away.

However, the U.S. and European Olympic bodies said Monday they oppose any boycott of the Olympics over China's crackdown on the Tibetan protests.

The U.S. led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow games and suffered from a boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

"Other than unnecessarily and unfairly punishing athletes, Olympic boycotts accomplish absolutely nothing," said Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

European Olympic officials, meeting Monday in Slovenia, said the violence in Tibet was no reason for a boycott.

"Under no circumstance will we support the boycott. We are 100 percent unanimous," said Patrick Hickey, the head of the European Olympic Committees. Hickey repeated the IOC principle that sports and politics should be separate.

"Not one world leader has come out with the suggestion of a boycott and no less a person than (Tibetan spiritual leader) the Dalai Lama" is against it," Hickey added.

An exception is the front-runner in this Saturday's presidential election in Taiwan — which Beijing considers a breakaway province — who said he would consider a boycott if violence in Tibet worsens.

"If the Chinese Communists continue their crackdown and this leads to a worsening of the Tibetan situation, I do not rule out boycotting the Beijing Olympics if I am elected president," Ma Ying-jeou told a campaign event.

Although Australia's government has ruled out a boycott, opposition politician Andrew Bartlett urged athletes and corporate sponsors to stay away.

"The Communist regime in China is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world," Bartlett told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "We can't just turn a blind eye because we all love our sport."

China is spending a reported $40 billion on venues, subways, new highways and related infrastructure for the Aug. 8-24 games. Any boycott would be a huge embarrassment to China, which is using the games to showcase its quick progress from an impoverished rural country to an economic and political power.

"If you were to take the games away from China, China's relationship with the rest of the world would be set back a decade," said Susan Brownell, an American expert on Chinese sports at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is spending this year at Beijing Sports University.

"It's scary to think of the negative effects that it would have in China's attitude toward the rest of the world," she said.