Tibetan woman holds Olympic flame atop Everest
EmptyBEIJING -- A Tibetan woman took the Olympic torch the last steps to the top of Everest on Thursday, realizing "a dream of all Chinese people," but Tibetan exiles criticized Beijing for politicizing the games.
"Long live Tibet!" and "Long live Beijing!," the climbers, all wearing red, shouted joyously into a TV camera after unfurling the Chinese national flag, the Olympic flag and a flag bearing the Beijing Olympic logo.
The ambitious project to take the torch to the Himalayan peak was cast as the highlight of the relay ahead of the games, which start in exactly three months' time, and followed weeks of protests against Beijing's rule in Tibet.
"We have realized a promise to the world and a dream of all the Chinese people," base camp commander Li Zhixin told reporters after being mobbed by jubilant friends and colleagues.
China has spent billions of dollars on staging the Olympics, eager to project the image of a modern and vibrant country. But protests during the international leg of the torch relay have bruised Chinese pride and provoked a surge of nationalist sentiment.
Exiled Tibetan officials and rights groups said the Everest flame was in bad taste and not in keeping with the spirit of the games.
"During these times when the situation in Tibet is very grave and grim we felt it is very provocative to take the Olympic torch to the Tibetan side of the mountain," said Thubten Samphel, secretary of the exiled government's information department in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
"The Chinese are suppressing the Tibetan people ... it is not in harmony with the spirit of the Olympics," he told Reuters.
Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, said in a statement e-mailed from New York: "Beijing's conquest of Everest is a political move meant to reassert China's control of Tibet."