Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tibet group: Prince to boycott Games

(CNN) -- Britain's Prince Charles will not attend the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in solidarity with a group that campaigns against China's human rights records, the Free Tibet campaign said Monday.

Free Tibet said it had written to the Prince of Wales asking him to stay away from the event, which begins on August 8.A spokeswoman for the Prince of Wales told CNN Monday that his office did not comment on private correspondence, but said, "There are no plans to attend the ceremony.

"The group told the prince -- a long-time supporter of Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama -- that human rights conditions in China and Tibet have deteriorated since the country was awarded the summer sporting showpiece despite its promises to improve them.

"With all that in mind, we asked the prince not to go to the Games because to do so would represent the tacit endorsement of the worsening human rights situation in Tibet," spokesman Matt Whitticase told CNN.

Whitticase said his group received a prompt response from the prince's deputy private secretary, informing it of the prince's decision to stay away.

The Free Tibet Campaign said the letter from the prince's office read:"As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in Tibet. You asked if the Prince of Wales would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be attending the ceremony.

"Whitticase said his group was now asking other high-profile leaders to follow the prince's "principled example.

""We feel these Games are destined to become known as the 'Games of Shame'," he said.There was no immediate reaction from Beijing. Earlier this month, a foreign ministry spokeswoman told the state news agency that some groups were trying to politicize the Games "to slur China's image and to put pressure on the Chinese government.

""No country in the world is perfect in human right issues," spokeswoman Jiang Yu told Xinhua. "The Chinese people are enjoying many rights that they have never enjoyed before.

"Prince Charles was embroiled in controversy over China in 2005 when British newspapers published details from one of his private journals, in which he called diplomats from the communist country "appalling old waxworks" following the handover of Hong Kong.

The Free Tibet Campaign, founded 20 years ago, advocates an end to China's occupation of Tibet.

Dalai Lama has called for more autonomy from communist China and asked that it grant Tibetans the freedom to practice their religion.

China claims that it is the rightful and legitimate government of Tibet after its 1951 invasion. It sees the Dalai Lama's work as part of "separatist activities."