SYDNEY (AFP) — A social justice campaigner has pulled out of the troubled Olympic torch relay's Australian leg because of her concerns about human rights abuses in the Chinese territory of Tibet.
Lin Hatfield Dodds, president of the Australian Council of Social Service, said Tuesday she still supported the Olympics but the symbolism of the torch relay had changed since she accepted the role of torchbearer.
"I was very grieved to see violence come into play between China and Tibet," she told national radio.
"And because of that, I've felt that the meaning of the running in the torch relay has really shifted.
"For a lot of people it still carries the meaning of harmony but for an increasing number of the global community watching it's carrying a lot of meaning around human rights."
The torch relay has been beset by angry demonstrations since it began in Greece on March 24, days after Beijing cracked down on protests directed against Chinese rule in Tibet.
More than half the police force in Australia's capital Canberra will guard the torch when the troubled relay makes its way through the city on Thursday after major protests in in London, Paris and San Francisco.
The 16 kilometre (10 mile) run is expected to attract hundreds of pro-Tibet demonstrators as well as thousands of supporters of Beijing's hosting of the Games.
Dodds, who is also the national director of the Uniting Church's community service arm in Australia, said it had been a difficult decision to withdraw from the relay.
"I hope it doesn't send any particular message to Australia's athletes," she said.
"I hope that it sends a message to the world at large that human rights matter."
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