Protesters Disrupt Olympic Torch Relay in London བོད་སྐད།

The Beijing Olympic torch has passed through London as part of its 136-day route across five continents and 20 countries. Tendai Maphosa reports from the British capital that protesters angered by China's crackdown in Tibet disrupted the Olympic torch relay through London on Sunday.

A day after the Olympic flame flew into London, the city woke up to an unseasonal snowfall. But the cold did not deter the hundreds who saw this as an opportunity to put Chinese human-rights abuses in Tibet under the spotlight.

Protesters followed the 80 torchbearers on the flame's journey across London. VOA asked some of them why they were demonstrating.

"The main purpose is we want free Tibet."
"Just because of the way the Chinese oppress the Tibetan people, it is not right."
"It has to do with human rights, there is genocide going on, there is murdering going on, there is torture going on, so I think the torch has become a symbol of protest."

The torch made a stop at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The prime minister has said Britain will not boycott the Beijing Olympics because the Dalai Lama opposes such action. He says the only way to resolve the Tibetan problem is through dialogue.

The protesters had mixed feelings about a boycott.

"Maybe some good can come from having the Olympics and bringing these issues to the world's attention."

"I would not call for a boycott now because the Chinese already have the Olympics, it is important that the Chinese try to improve their human rights record in Tibet, they should use this opportunity to try to improve their human-rights record."
"The British government should stand up for human rights with boycotting the Olympic games."

One group of demonstrators with another view waved the Chinese flag.

"I do not think that the Chinese government torture(s) Tibet people, I think unity is quite important and all Chinese are for peaceful games, we want to have unity of the country. From history, from 13th century Tibet has been part of China."

The man said the Chinese government had used what he called restraint in dealing with demonstrators in the recent disturbances in Tibet. He blamed the demonstrations on people who he said had bad intentions, people who want to sacrifice the unity of China.

While most of the demonstrations were peaceful, things did occasionally get out of hand. More than 30 demonstrators who broke through police lines were arrested.

In west London, a protester tried to grab the torch out of the hands of one torchbearer, forcing police to briefly stop the procession as officers detained the man. Another demonstrator tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

Demonstrators concentrated near the spot where Chinese Ambassador Fu Ying had been expected to carry the Olympic torch, forcing a last-minute change of plan. Fu emerged with flame in the heart of London's Chinatown instead, and managed to jog unhindered before handing off the torch.

The anti-China demonstrators said the demonstrations would have no effect unless Western governments exerted economic pressure on China.