China tells critics not to politicise Olympics

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BEIJING, Oct 19 (Reuters) China told critics today not to link the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to political issues or boycotts, saying that any attempt to do so would be ''inappropriate and unpopular''.

Rights groups have seized upon the Olympics as a chance to exert pressure on China for everything from the conflict in Darfur, Beijing's support of Myanmar's ruling military junta and the rights of migrant workers.

''We believe that any political issue that has nothing to do with the Olympics should not be linked to the Beijing Games,'' Liu Jingmin, executive vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games, told a news conference on the sidelines of a Communist Party Congress.

This week, Human Rights Watch urged China to use its UN Security Council membership to help end state repression in the former Burma after last month's crackdown on street protests.

The New York-based rights group noted that the auspicious date, August 8, 2008, chosen as the opening day of the Beijing Olympics, marked the 20th anniversary of the 1988 pro-democracy protests in Myanmar, crushed by the military a month later.

''The Chinese government has been playing a constructive and responsible part in the Myanmar issue and the constructive role has been recognised by all,'' said Liu, who is also a Beijing deputy mayor.

''We believe that an attempt to use this issue as an excuse to boycott the Olympics will be both inappropriate and unpopular.'' He also defended China's own human rights record, which has been called into question by forced evictions of people moved to make way for Olympic venues and a crackdown on dissidents who the government fears may negatively affect social stability.

''I believe that the preparations for the Olympics have tremendously boosted the development of human rights in China,'' Liu said.

In case anyone should try to organise protests at the Games or otherwise try to disrupt them, Liu warned that security forces would be on high alert.

''Security has always been the top priority during our preparations,'' he said ''We can absolutely ensure the 2008 Games will be a safe Olympics.'' REUTERS SYU KP1222

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