Olympics: China Urges US Athletes To Focus On Friendship

BEIJING : China on Tuesday said US athletes should focus on building friendships at the Beijing Games, in a curt response to US President George Bush’s call for them to be “ambassadors of liberty”.

“We hope and believe that all athletes, including American athletes, attending the Beijing Olympics, will make efforts to promote friendship among the peoples of the world,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

He gave no other comment on the matter.

Liu had been asked by reporters to respond to Bush’s comments Monday urging US athletes headed to the Games to represent American respect for freedom and human rights.

“In Beijing, you will convey our nation’s most cherished values. As ambassadors of liberty, you will represent America’s love for freedom and our regard for human rights and human dignity,” Bush said.

“You’ll represent that to other athletes, and to the people of China.”

Bush will attend the August 8 opening ceremony of the Games, having rejected the appeals of activists to boycott the event in protest over China’s human rights record.

China’s rights record has come under renewed scrutiny this year, especially after it used the armed forces to put down an outburst of violence across the restive Tibet region in March.

The unrest triggered protests by pro-Tibetan activists overseas that threw the Beijing Olympic torch relay’s international legs into chaos.

Some US Olympians have spoken out publicly against the Tibet crackdown and suggested there could be podium protests during the Games. – AFP/de

Channel News Asia

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