By JULIA ZAPPEI, Associated Press Writer
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A crowd of Chinese onlookers heckled and hit a Japanese family with inflated plastic batons Monday after the three unfurled a Tibetan flag before the start of the Malaysian leg of the Olympic torch relay.
The family, comprising two adults and a boy, was detained by police, who also took a Buddhist monk and a British woman wearing a “Free-Tibet” T-shirt into custody. All five were later released.
Criticism of China‘s human rights record has turned August Beijing Olympics into one of the most contentious in recent history.
Protests have dogged the round-the-world torch relay during its stops in Paris, London and San Francisco, with demonstrations over China’s crackdown in Tibet where it forcefully put down anti-government riots.
Though the torch’s most recent legs in South America, Africa and Asia have been relatively trouble-free, host countries have beefed up security in an effort to thwart possible disruptions.
About 1,000 police stood ready to guard the relay in Malaysia against protests. A Buddhist group held special prayers at a Kuala Lumpur temple for a trouble-free torch run and a peaceful Olympics.
The president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, Imran Jaafar, set off with the torch, jogging a short distance before handing it to the next runner in the relay covering 10 miles through downtown Kuala Lumpur.
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