Chinese Olympic torch escorts who put their lives on the line to protect the sacred flame should be commended, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
"They protect the world's holy fire with their bodies to prevent disruption and sabotage by Tibetan independence forces. Such spirit should be praised and understood," Jiang Yu said in a regular press briefing.
"(Instead) The mobs which disrupt the relay should be universally condemned."
She made the remarks when asked to comment on reports that Japanese Olympic officials have said the role of the Chinese torch guards in blue-and-white track suits would not be to provide security.
Australian officials reportedly voiced the same objection to the guards' participation in the Canberra leg of the relay.
Jiang stressed that the escorts are not law enforcement personnel but volunteers with a clear and sacred mission of protecting the safety, sanctity and dignity of the Olympic torch, and urged countries involved in the relay to aid their mission.
She pointed out that the convention of having torch guards in the relay was approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"The practice has always been the same in past Games and the IOC has given it 100 percent support," Jiang said.
The Olympic torch arrives in Nagano, central Japan, on April 26; and two Chinese flame attendants will run with torch bearers along an 18.5-km route, said an official of the relay's organizing committee in Nagano.
Jiang yesterday again urged CNN to sincerely apologize and retract insulting remarks by one of its commentators who called the Chinese "goons and thugs" and Chinese products "junk".
She said a statement issued by CNN on Tuesday "not only failed to sincerely apologize for commentator Jack Cafferty's remarks, but also spearheaded an attack on the Chinese government, attempting to incite the Chinese people against the government".
She added China could never accept that. "The Chinese people cannot be bullied and humiliated.
"We once again solemnly urge CNN to seriously deal with the matter, withdraw the vile remarks and make a sincere apology to all Chinese people", she said.
The ministry summoned the CNN Beijing bureau chief on Wednesday to lodge a protest.
Cafferty said on a TV show aired on April 9 that Chinese products were "junk" and the Chinese people were "basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years".
Cafferty's remarks drew indignation from Chinese at home and abroad. CNN then issued a statement on Tuesday saying "it was not Mr Cafferty's nor CNN's intent to cause offence to the Chinese people, and CNN would apologize to anyone who has interpreted the comments in this way".
The network stated that Cafferty was offering his "strongly held" opinion of the Chinese government, not China's people.
Agencies contributed to the story