The relay carrying the Olympic torch to Beijing for this summer's Olympic Games has quickly turned into a gantlet of criticism that is angering ordinary Chinese who feel their country is being treated unfairly.
As thousands of French police struggled to keep the Olympic torch moving -- and lit -- through throngs of anti-China protesters in Paris before canceling the last stretch on Monday, people on the streets of Shanghai and Beijing were voicing increasing anger and rising nationalism.
'Chinese people should all be indignant,' said Du Chunhua, who works for a trading company in the Chinese capital. 'I think it's really bad that they are trying to ruin such a peaceful event.'
It is becoming clear that the Olympics, envisioned by the Chinese government as a kind of international coming-out party to celebrate China's rapid economic growth and its growing role on the world stage, is instead posing a major challenge to the nation's image.
And an event that many had hoped would help Westerners to better understand China and give China a better understanding of the West, is instead laying bare the sharply divergent views of each side.
The trouble in Paris came a day after the torch made a difficult journey through a snowy London, where a protester managed to break through security and momentarily grip the torch. On Wednesday, it arrives in San Francisco, where activists have spent months planning protests.
The scene in Paris on Monday was chaotic. At one point, the torch appeared unlit while being carried by a woman in a wheelchair. Moments later organizers placed the torch inside a bus transporting Chinese officials, and police on in-line skates surrounded the vehicle as it continued along the route.
A police spokeswoman said the torch was extinguished at least once during the relay. The actual flame, which was lit in Olympia, Greece, in late March, remained burning inside a lantern in the bus as a backup.
The torch protests in London and Paris have been fueled by events in Tibet, where peaceful demonstrations that began in early March turned into violence that met with a forceful Chinese government response.
But those speaking and acting out against the torch relay and China's hosting of the Olympics also criticize China's overall human-rights record, as well as its ties to repressive regimes such as Sudan and Myanmar.
Jean Pierre Bonville, a 59-year-old lawyer from Belgium, traveled to Paris with his 12-year-old son to protest. 'This is not just about Tibet; it's about the right to freedom in general,' he said.
Many, if not most, Chinese, however, see their country as freer -- and more prosperous -- than at any time in their lifetimes. For them, the Games are seen as a celebration of their economic, political and social progress.
At least some of the demonstrations have been blocked from broadcasts in China of the torch relay, particularly interruptions in the lighting of the torch in Athens. But as the protests have gone on, they are being reported in the Chinese press, though often not very promptly and generally blamed only on Tibetan separatists.
The protesters 'should come here and see for themselves,' said Han Hailing, 26, an urban planner in Beijing. 'They don't understand what's going on here. But you can't blame them either. They're getting wrong information from the media.'
Ms. Han said that 'every government has its problems,' but added: 'I have to say the Chinese government is right' on the way it is handling Tibet. 'The government has already invested a lot' in Tibet and other ethnic-minority areas, she said.
Such sentiments have drawn ethnic Chinese to the defense of China and the torch. In Paris, Tibetan protesters faced off in a shouting match with China supporters waving the country's red-and-gold national flag and chanting 'Bravo, Beijing.'
Shen Shuang, a 27-year-old woman from China, said she traveled to Paris from Marseille to show her support for the Beijing Olympics. With her face painted with Chinese flags, she ran alongside the convoy dodging protesters who blew whistles at her. 'I can keep this up all day,' she said.
As the torch traveled from the Eiffel Tower along the Seine River, hundreds of activists draped in Tibet flags poured into the street chanting 'Free Tibet,' trying to block the route.
Large vans and trucks helped clear a path for the torch through the crowds as police clad in heavy shoulder and arm pads locked arms with shouting protesters and forced some to the ground. A group of Chinese guards in tracksuits ran alongside the flame, forming a protective bubble.
Despite the tightly coordinated security effort, authorities were forced to take further precautions as several protesters broke through the police wall to get within steps of the embattled torch.
Part of what made the protests so difficult to contain was their scale -- both large and small. Members of the Paris-based rights group Reporters Without Borders managed to climb a section of the Eiffel Tower and unfurl a giant banner that depicted the Olympic rings as interlocking handcuffs.
Yolaine De La Bigne, a torchbearer, wore an armband depicting the Tibetan flag as she received the torch. Chinese guards who were running alongside her ripped the band off her arm as soon she tried to display it, she says.
Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympics on Monday criticized protesters who tried to disrupt the relay in London. 'A few Tibetan separatists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in London, and we strongly denounce their disgusting behavior,' Mr. Sun said.
For many Chinese, who read about the protests and see images online, the troubles with the torch relay seem very far from the reality of China as they perceive it. China this year is marking the 30th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's decision to turn away from central planning and toward markets and to reopen China to the rest of the world. These ever-accelerating changes have transformed China from a Communist backwater to the world's fourth-largest economy.
Cheng Hongyu, a 25-year-old French-language student, says the protesters 'don't live here. From their perspective they are seeing problems, but they don't see the whole picture.' She continued: 'I think in general, the direction the government is taking is good. The government only wants improvements for Tibet and the Tibetan people.'
Online commentary has tended to be nationalistic and to argue that the coming Olympics are being used to bolster the cause of an independent Tibet. 'These destructive activities by the foreign forces of Tibet independence are really outrageous,' wrote one person in a popular Chinese chat room for political and social issues. 'Making ordinary Chinese angry is more dangerous than p- off the government.'
Some Chinese have taken matters into their own hands, launching campaigns of harassing phone calls and email against Tibetan human-rights campaigners and China-based foreign correspondents covering the recent unrest in Tibetan areas.
Many Chinese don't understand why the outside world fails to see the incredible progress that their country has made over the course of their lives.
'First of all, it's still a small group of people trying to screw up the event. And obviously there are political motives behind it,' says Han Hongyi, 36, who works at a human-resources-consulting company, and said he read about the protests online. 'It's unfair to most of the Chinese people. We have been looking forward to the Olympics for a long time.'
比利时59岁的律师让•皮埃尔•本维依(Jean Pierre Bonville)带着12岁的儿子来到巴黎参加抗议活动。“这不仅仅是西藏问题，它事关全部自由权利，”他说。
这些抗议活动之所以难以控制，部分原因在于其规模──既有大范围的抗议也有小规模的零星活动。总部设在巴黎的人权组织记者无国界(Reporters Without Borders)的成员还爬上了艾菲尔铁塔，并打出一面巨大横幅，将奥运五环画成了五个相互扣联的手铐。
火炬手比聂(Yolaine De La Bigne)接过火炬时戴上了一枚印有藏独旗帜的臂章。她回忆说，就在自己准备伸手展示时，跟随左右的中方护卫人员赶紧将臂章扯了下来。