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China criticizes Myanmar Olympic boycott

BEIJING — Moves to link China's role in Myanmar to a boycott of the 2008 Olympics would be "inappropriate and unpopular," the vice major of Beijing said Friday.

"I believe that any political issue or issues that have nothing to do with the Olympics should not be linked with the Olympic games," said Liu Jingmin, who is also a vice president of the Beijing organizing committee.

He spoke in a briefing on preparations for the Olympics, which are less than 10 months away.

China's communist government has been criticized for its ties with governments in Sudan and Myanmar, and calls from boycotts have stemmed from business China does with both countries.

"The Chinese government has played a constructive and responsible part in the Myanmar issue," Liu said. "The constructive role by China has been recognized by all. I think the attempt to use this issue as an excuse to boycott the Beijing Olympics is both inappropriate and unpopular."

The recent violence in Myanmar increased calls for China to push its southern neighbor toward change.

A boycott would be embarrassing to China, but there seems to be little appetite for it with world leaders resistant to the idea.

Liu also said human rights conditions were improving in China as a result of the Olympics. In bidding for the games, Chinese officials said having the games would speed change.

"Indeed I believe that preparations for the Olympics have tremendously boosted the development of human rights in China," Liu said, citing improved living standards and moves to clean up the environment.

China's ruling Communist Party has taken some steps to appear more open ahead of the Olympics next summer, such as loosening restrictions on foreign reporters.

But critics say its grip on dissent has in fact tightened under President Hu Jintao. Controls ratcheted up in the run up to China's twice-a-decade Communist Party congress, taking place this week.

Liu also promised tight security for the games.

"We are 100 percent sure that we can demonstrate to the world that the 2008 Games in Beijing will be games of safety and security," he said in a wide-ranging, 90-minute news conference.

Liu said a "high-level command and control system" was being set up and he called the planning "thoughtful and meticulous."

"We have carefully analyzed every incident that has occurred in the history of the Olympic games and then we formulated a strategic plan."

He said fans attending major events would be identified by electronic chips in tickets.

Liu said the operating budget for the Olympics had increased to "more than $2 billion" from the original $1.6 billion submitted during the bid process in 2001. He noted it was still below the $2.4 billion budget for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

He said the increase was mostly due to more spending on security and the rising value of the Chinese currency against its American counterpart.

Liu said construction on 27 of the 37 venues had been completed, with nine more set to be finished by the end of the year.

The exception is the National Stadium, the Bird's Nest, which will be ready in March. The Media Village and Olympic Village also will be completed next year, Liu said.