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China Criticizes Protest of Olympic Torch Lighting


China has criticized human rights activists for disrupting the lighting ceremony of the Olympic torch in Ancient Olympia, Greece, Monday, saying their actions were "shameful."

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called on authorities in countries on the route to ensure the torch's smooth transit.

The spokesman called attempts to sabotage the torch's progress "unpopular." Chinese state media have made no mention of Monday's protests, and are calling the lighting ceremony a success.

Chinese state media broadcast Monday's ceremony in Ancient Olympia, but cut away when protesters pushed through security and disrupted the speech of China's Olympic organizing committee chief, Liu Qi.

At the ceremony, protesters unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs to protest human rights abuses in China. After the torch left the site, pro-Tibetan protesters tried to stop its relay.

After Monday's ceremony in Greece - the birthplace of the ancient Olympic games - the torch will travel to Athens, site of the first modern Olympics. From Athens it will be flown to Beijing before embarking on its trek across the globe in the run up to the August Summer Games.

On one leg of its journey, the torch will pass through restive Tibet to Mount Everest. Human rights groups have called for a ban of that part of the journey until China agrees to allow an investigation of the recent unrest there.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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