A former Chinese official has said activists on the Darfur issue are using the Olympics as an excuse to attack China and that they do not really care about the situation in the Sudanese region. His comments came just a day after the Chinese government revoked a visa for a U.S. athlete who was planning to protest against China's support for the Sudanese government. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
Former Chinese foreign ministry spokesman and ambassador to France, Wu Jianmin, on Thursday brushed off
criticism of China's policy on Darfur.
Speaking to journalists at an Olympics media briefing, Wu said there was no basis for activists to blame China for the situation in the war-torn region.
He says activists do not really care about Darfur and are just protesting because they want to use the Olympic Games to smear China's image. He says they have ulterior motives.
Wu was responding to criticism of China's decision to, at the last minute, revoke a visa for U.S. speed skating champion Joey Cheek.
Cheek is part of "Team Darfur," a group of athletes campaigning to bring attention to the plight of civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Human rights organizations say Beijing has fueled the four-year conflict between Khartoum and rebels in the region. They say China's oil investment and weapons sales to Sudan have supported government troops and militias, some of whom have massacred and raped civilians.
Actress Mia Farrow is in neighboring Chad holding an ongoing protest against the Olympics from Darfur refugee camps. During a teleconference with journalists Thursday she chastised Chinese officials for not taking the issue seriously.
"Obviously, the tragedy in Darfur could not continue without the ongoing support of Beijing. And, shame on them and shame on the Olympic Committee for choosing Beijing and putting the athletes in this untenable position," she said.
Chinese officials say weapons sold to Sudan are not to be used in Darfur and deny they are doing anything that would fuel the conflict.
China has won some applause for urging Khartoum to peacefully resolve the issue but has not stopped weapons sales and continues to invest heavily in Sudan's oil.
On other Olympic protests, China has deported two American and two British nationals for demonstrating Wednesday outside the main Olympic venue.
The four members of "Students for a Free Tibet" hung banners on light posts calling for freedom in Tibet.
Three American Christians were also detained Thursday after protesting against human rights abuses for a second day in Tiananmen Square.
The group had shouted near the square Wednesday, was briefly detained, and then, in an unusual move, released. The group returned the next day and held a brief demonstration and prayer in front of foreign journalists before police dragged them away.