Who Are the Men in Blue?

A number of Western media are now looking into who exactly comprise the group of security men in blue tracksuits – reportedly specially trained members of the People’s Armed Police – who have been guarding the Olympic torch as it makes its way across the globe. From Reuters:

Tracksuit-clad Chinese security operatives repeatedly cut short torch-bearers’ runs on Monday and packed the torch onto a bus, apparently because they were concerned by the numerous pro-Tibet and human rights protests along the route.

“I am singularly surprised by the conduct of those who have the responsibility under the Olympic charter — the Chinese — by their conduct in the streets of Paris,” Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the lower house of parliament.

While Australia’s The Age reports:

…The Shanghai-based Labour Daily newspaper, quoting Zhao Si, head of the elite unit, said its members were picked in 2007 from the People’s Armed Police, China’s 660,000-strong paramilitary force that mostly deals with internal security. Thousands of PAP forces are still deployed throughout Tibet and Tibetan regions of western China since monk-led protests on March 10 degenerated into a violent riot in Lhasa on March 14.

Pictures of the guards at a swearing-in ceremony, after undergoing special physical, etiquette and language training at the PAP training academy in Beijing, show their official name as “The Protection Team for the Holy Flame of the 29th Olympic Games”.

Read also reports from the Foreign Policy blog, News.com.au, and the new blog by the Washington Post’s John Pomfret.

Watch also a BBC report, “Who Are the Men in Blue?”: