Three activists scaled the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday and hung the Tibetan flag alongside 2 huge banners which exclaimed â€˜Free Tibet 08â€™ and â€˜One World, One Dreamâ€™, aimed to coincide with the arrival of the Beijing Olympic Torch to San Francisco the following day.
Since the Olympic Torch began its journey from Athens, the Ancient Olympia, it has been confronted with a series of mass demonstrations, particularly in London and Paris, where demonstrators have repeatedly tried to snub the flame in protest against Chinaâ€™s human rights abuses and policies in Tibet and Sudan.
A particular concern of human rights activists in San Francisco is that the Olympic Torch is scheduled to pass through Tibet as part of the planned 21 city tour by the International Olympic Committee. A symbol of Chinese national pride as host to the 2008 Olympic Games it is likely to incite more uprisings in Tibet, followed by further repressive measures by China.
Laurel Sutherlin, a climber in the daring bridge stunt, expressed this fear 150ft above the passing traffic, â€œIf the IOC allows the torch to proceed into Tibet theyâ€™ll have blood on their hands.â€
The prospect of the torch passing through San Francisco has been met with very mixed feelings of pride and antipathy. In particular, Chinese expatriates are keen to maintain the dignity of their homeland and are extremely honored that it was chosen to pass through the city, the only one in North America on its route.
In opposition to the arrival of the Olympic Torchâ€™s, vigils and rallies have been organized, taking the opportunity of international attention to highlight Chinaâ€™s human rights abuses and apply pressure to governments to boycott the opening ceremony if China refuses to change its policies.
The Olympic Flame is scheduled to be carried 6 miles along San Francisco Bay by 80 torch-bearers on Wednesday. San Francisco city officials aim to balance support for the arrival of the Olympic torch with the protestors right to freedom of expression, ensuring high security levels for all those attending and participating in the ceremony.
â€œThe city must provide a proper forum for the peaceful expression of opinions and dissent. And it must safely and respectfully welcome the flame and honor the U.S. athletes and other participants who will carry the torch,â€ said U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth.
The decision for the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing has been a controversial issue since the onset, gaining momentum as the competition draws near.
So far, China has not shown any sign of letting international pressure interfere with their political policies, but they are still several months away from its opening ceremony.
â€œFor those few separatists who attempt to sabotage and destroy the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay, we express our strong condemnation. The Olympic flame belongs to the people around the world, so the behavior of a few separatists would not gain sympathy from people and will cause strong criticism and is doomed to fail,â€ said Wang Hui of the Beijing Organizing Committee.