Police, Tibetans scuffle in protest

Updated: August 29, 2004, 5:12 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Tibetan protesters and police briefly scuffled at the main Olympic stadium complex Sunday, just hours before organizers of the 2008 Beijing Games were to receive the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony.

After passing through a security checkpoint, six activists from the International Tibet Support Network unfurled a black flag with five bullet holes replacing the Olympic rings, and began marching toward the main stadium.

They were stopped by about two dozen police and security guards who seized the flag in a brief scuffle. Olympic rules forbid political banners in venues.

Police also searched the protesters' bags, confiscating several T-shirts and stickers with the same logo and copies of a report on human rights in Tibet.

There were no injuries, and the protesters sat down in protest, saying they wanted to speak to a representative of the International Olympic Committee and hand over the flag so it could be presented to the Beijing organizers.

"We feel that this is the flag that Beijing truly deserves,'' spokesman Tenzin Sewo said.

No IOC representative arrived, and the protesters eventually left.

China maintains Tibet has been part of its territory for at least seven centuries, but many Tibetans say they were an independent nation for most of that time. Rights groups such as Amnesty International have accused China, which invaded Tibet in 1951, of widespread human-rights abuses.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press