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China turns patriotic wrath on Olympics demonstrators

China denounced protesters who upstaged Olympic Games torch relays in London and Paris and asked the United States to ensure that the next leg in San Francisco avoids similar mayhem.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials also criticized the protests and a spokeswoman said the torch relay was expected to continue as scheduled.

Officials in Paris on Monday were forced to hustle the Olympic torch onto a bus when protesters against Chinese policy on Tibet tried to seize it.

In London the day before, activists waving Tibetan flags and shouting “Shame on China” also turned the event into a torrid obstacle course.

China quickly condemned the disruptions as "vile" and, in a departure from past reticence, state-run television and newspapers showed the protests and upset spectators.

“We express our strong condemnation of the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by 'Tibetan independence' separatist forces,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement posted at www.fmprc.gov.cn.

At a later briefing, she said Chinese and US officials had been working together to ensure the visit of the torch to San Francisco on Wednesday would go “safely and smoothly.”

“We also warn groups and elements attempting to disrupt and sabotage the torch relay that their goal - of using the Olympics for their unspeakable ends and to blacken and put pressure on China - is absolutely unattainable.”

The IOC was also concerned about security in San Francisco.

“I hope they can protect the flame better than those who hosted it yesterday,” said IOC member Alex Gilady.

In San Francisco, where the flame is to make its only US stop, three protesters scaled the city's famed Golden Gate bridge on Monday to hang banners reading “One World, One Dream: Free Tibet” and “Free Tibet 08” ahead of the torch's arrival.

The torch relay disruptions follow unrest in Tibet that China has said was the work of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader. He has repeatedly denied China's claims.

Beijing's subsequent security drive in Tibet and nearby areas has galvanized international groups denouncing the crackdown and calling for the mountain region's autonomy or independence.

IOC President Jacques Rogge acknowledged the right of people to protest but hoped the Olympic flame would be respected as a symbol of unity.

“However, if you want to protest, it has to be peaceful. We don't accept violence,” he said in an interview with Chinese media. “We accept protest, we don't accept violence.”

An IOC spokeswoman said there had been no discussion on curtailing the international leg of the relay and that “the expectation as we speak today is that the relay will continue as planned.”

Kevan Gosper, the IOC press chief, said international legs should not be considered for future Games.

“The torch should go from Olympia, Greece to the host country and I would expect that the executive committee will review that,” he said.

Beijing, which had hoped the Olympic torch relay would be a symbol of cheerful unity in the run-up to the August 8-24 Games, is seeking to rally public opinion to back government policy and reject criticism of the Beijing Olympics.

Newspapers played on the public rancor.

“France didn't protect the sacred flame,” said the Global Times, a popular tabloid. “The world has seen the irrational extremism of some in the West, and also seen the incompetence of the Paris police.”

Feelings were also running high on the streets of the Chinese capital.

“If the torch relay does not progress smoothly it would be a compromise from the Chinese government towards the protestors,” said Mao Xianmin, who works for a Beijing insurance company.

“We not only have to continue with the torch relay but also to tell the world loudly that we can do it.”

US Democratic presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton urged President George W. Bush on Monday to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony unless China improves human rights.

Jiang Yu said US politicians should have a “clear and sober understanding” of the recent events.

“We hope that figures in the political world can have the vision as politicians and will be able to treat and handle China-US relations from a strategic, long-term vantage point,” she said.

Bush plans to attend the ceremony and so far has resisted pressure to change his plans. (Reuters)