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House passes Chinese crackdown resolution

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  • House passes resolution on Chinese crackdown of Tibet, 413-1
  • The resolution, sponsored by Speaker Pelosi, has no force of law
  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not be at opening ceremonies
  • Clinton commends Brown
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution Wednesday calling on China to end its crackdown on Tibet and release Tibetans imprisoned for "nonviolent" demonstrations.

The vote was 413-1. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who has not dropped out of the presidential race, was the lone congressman voting against it.

The resolution passed just hours before runners were to carry the Olympic torch on a six-mile route around San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco, California, which is in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 8th District, is the only U.S. stop for the torch relay, which is wrapping up the first week of a 23-city international tour.

Pelosi and other House members introduced the resolution, which urges China to end the crackdown in Tibet and "enter into a substantive dialogue" with the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India.

"It is my hope that the House of Representatives will send a clear message that we support the fundamental freedoms of the Tibetan people and a peaceful solution to the instability in Tibet," Pelosi said Tuesday on the House floor.

"It is long past time for Beijing to reassess its failed policy to attack and demonize the Dalai Lama, and show the world it can have civilized discussions as a responsible world power," she said.

The resolution, which has no force of law, also asks the State Department to reconsider its decision to exclude China from its list of countries considered the "world's most systematic human rights violators," and calls Chinese officials to allow independent international monitors and journalists access to Tibet.

In the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith introduced a similar resolution, The Associated Press reported.

By mid-morning, protesters were marching along the San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge, where on Monday three protesters scaled suspension cables and unfurled a large banner that read, "One World. One Dream. Free Tibet."

In some places in the city, protesters acted out violent confrontations between Chinese authorities and Tibetan monks. One protester moved through a crush of people in a makeshift military tank. Video Watch the protests in San Francisco »

However, pro-Chinese demonstrators also were out in droves, waving Chinese flags.

In one incident, a man with a Tibetan flag snuck into a pro-Chinese crowd and a skirmish ensued. The pro-Chinese protesters surrounded the Tibetan demonstrator, yelling. No arrests were made.

San Francisco authorities have put up barricades around the flame's planned route. Police were also monitoring the protests from the bay, where they sat on jet skis and boats.

When the flame arrived in the city Tuesday, thousands of people chanted slogans and waved banners to demonstrate against China's human rights record, including its treatment of Tibet.

Also Wednesday, Sens. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia; Hillary Clinton, D-New York; and Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey; wrote President Bush a letter stressing the recent crackdown in Tibet, as well as years of human rights abuses in China.

"If the Chinese government is ever to treat its people with basic human rights, it must be sent a bold and clear message that its record of violence and suppression is completely unacceptable," the letter says. "[We] urge you not to attend the opening ceremonies in Beijing this summer."

Clinton called on Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama to join her in the request.

Obama released a statement Wednesday saying a presidential boycott of opening ceremonies should be on the table.

"If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies."

He called on China "to allow foreign journalists and diplomats access to the region [Tibet], and to engage the Dalai Lama in meaningful talks about the future of Tibet."

But, Obama said, the decision over whether to boycott the opening ceremonies should be made closer to the beginning of the Olympic Games.

Brooke Buchanan, a spokesperson for McCain, told CNN that the Arizona senator "believes the president should evaluate the situation as it evolves and ought to keep his options open."

"He continues to condemn the brutal oppression that the Chinese inflicted on the Tibetans and protestors around the world," Buchanan said.

President Bush, however, has publicly committed to attend the Beijing games.

When a reporter recently said to him, "You're planning to ... be at the opening ceremonies," Bush neither confirmed or denied the statement.

When pressed on the issue Wednesday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino stated only that the president is going to the Olympics.

A number of other international leaders have decided to skip the opening ceremony, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.

Some, however, made the decision separate from a human rights issue. Brown, for instance, will attend the closing ceremony, when the London will be recognized as the next host.

Brown never had any plans to attend any other part of the Beijing Olympics, his office said.

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Clinton, speaking at the Irish American Forum Wednesday in New York, issued a statement on Brown's decision.

"I wanted to commend Prime Minister Gordon Brown for agreeing not to go to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing. That was an important decision by Prime Minister Brown and I am calling on Sens. McCain and Obama to join me in my request that President Bush also not attend the opening ceremonies." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mary Snow, Lisa Desjardins, Alexander Marquardt and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.

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