Chinese ambassador pulls out of torch relay

China's ambassador to Britain has pulled out of running in this weekend's Olympic torch relay ceremony in the first indication that growing international concern at the country's recent actions in Tibet is starting to become a major source of embarrassment for Beijing.

Fu Ying, China's ambassador to the UK for the past year, was meant to be one of 80 athletes, celebrities and dignitaries to carry the Olympic torch through the streets of London on Sunday, as part of the UK leg of the 130-day relay. But yesterday it emerged she had pulled out of the ceremony after being asked by her superiors in Beijing to spend the day with China's official delegation instead.

Ms Fu's potential involvement in the Olympic relay had infuriated human rights campaigners, who accused the British Government of allowing a Chinese official to participate in the relay at a time when the host nation was instigating a string of oppressive crackdowns and media blackouts.

Human rights groups said scores of protesters in Tibet had been killed and hundreds more imprisoned after some of the most sustained protests against Chinese rule in the restive region for almost two decades.

There have also been a number of arrests in western China over the past three weeks following demonstrations by the region's predominantly Muslim Uighur population.

Campaigners welcomed the news that Ms Fu had backed out of the relay, and said the withdrawal of such a high profile figure from such a prestigious event showed the protests over China's human rights record were starting to rattle the authorities in Beijing.

Mark Farmanar, from the Burma Campaign, said: "Clearly something that was supposed to showcase China has in fact turned into an unmitigated disaster. The Chinese government wants to use the Olympics to make themselves look good and the ambassador was all part of that. It's is a PR exercise that is rapidly going wrong for them."

Anne Holmes, acting director of Free Tibet UK, said: "I think it was a controversial decision and on reflection, they probably realised it was in bad taste. The fact is, Fu Ying is the official representative to the UK for the Chinese government, which is currently instigating a total media blackout in Tibet."

China is fiercely proud of the 137,000 kilometre (85,130 miles) torch relay, which they have billed as a "journey of harmony". Instead, it has become the focus of protests. Campaigners have vowed numerous protests during the London ceremony this weekend, and during upcoming relays in Paris, San Francisco and Delhi. Yesterday police in Istanbul detained six Uighur activists protesting at the torch's arrival in the Turkish city.

The Olympic torch will arrive in London on Saturday night from St Petersburg and will be carried on an eight-hour relay the following day; beginning in Wembley and ending in Greenwich.

The torch bearers

Olympic Athletes

*Ed Coode – Olympic rowing champion Athens 2004

*Steve Cram – former 1,500m world champion runner

*Danny Crates – disabled world indoor 800m champion

*Gail Emms – Olympic badminton doubles silver medallist, Athens 2004

*Duncan Goodhew – former Olympic swimming champion

*David Hemery – former Olympic hurdles champion

*Dame Kelly Holmes – double Olympic champion, 800m and 1,500m Athens 2004

*Denise Lewis – former Olympic heptathlon champion

*Sir Steve Redgrave – Olympic rowing champion

*Tessa Sanderson – Olympic javelin champion

*Leon Taylor – Olympic silver in diving, Athens 2004

Sporting heroes and celebrities

*Tim Henman – tennis player

*Konnie Huq – television presenter

*Amara Karan – actress

*Peter Kenyon – chief executive, Chelsea FC

*Kenny Logan – former Scotland rugby international

*Vanessa Mae – violinist

*Francesca Martinez – comedian

*Dame Ellen MacArthur – champion yachtswoman

*Sir Trevor McDonald – television news presenter

*Kevin Pietersen – England cricketer

*Zoe Salmon – Blue Peter presenter

*Sugababes – pop trio

*Denise Van Outen – television presenter/stage actress

*Theo Walcott – Arsenal/England footballer

*Sir Clive Woodward – former England rugby manager

newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis