Four detained over pro-Tibet protest near Beijing stadium

August 6th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 6 (DPA) Two US and two British citizens were detained Wednesday after a pro-Tibet protest near Beijing’s National Stadium two days ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony. Two of the people in the group, both British men, scaled 120-foot light posts and unfurled banners calling for a Tibet free from China’s rule. The incident took place near the stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, the Xinhua news agency quoted police as saying.

The protestors were from the US-based group Students For a Free Tibet, which confirmed the incident happened.

Xinhua said that the four foreigners - three men and one woman - were taken away. According to police, the group gathered at the Beichen Bridge near the stadium around 5.47 a.m. and two men climbed the poles to display the banners.

One banner read in large black letters “One World One Dream Free Tibet.” It hung down a large section of a pole, as one of the activist clung to the pole, according to a picture shown on the American TV station ABC New’s website.

The second banner read, “Tibet will be free,” ABC said.

The two men climbed down and police checked their identification, but did not handcuff them, ABC said. It said authorities were polite and did not use rough treatment of the men.

Within 10 minutes of the banners’ unfurling, firemen arrived in several firetrucks with extended ladders and remove them from the light posts, ABC said.

One climber, who identified himself as Ian from Edinburgh, Scotland, was quoted by ABC News via mobile phone while climbing down.

“I’ll probably get detained by the police and then ejected out of the country but I believe it’s not anywhere near the risk or the fear that Tibetans are living under the occupation of the Chinese government,” he was quoted as saying.

The four entered China on tourist visas.

Kate Woznow, the group’s campaign director, told DPA later that the activists’ mobile phones have been turned off and she did not know where police have taken them.

“They felt with the Olympics about to open and the Chinese government’s ongoing crackdown on Tibet, it was really important to make the statement at this time, sort of a peaceful but bold statement to show solidarity for Tibetans,” Woznow said.

The incident happened as the torch relay went through Beijing’s streets. It will culminate Friday in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony.

It also comes two days after China said two men in its restive Xinjiang region attacked a group of armed police with explosives and knives, killing 16 officers and injuring 16 others. The incident was blamed on Muslim Uighur “terrorists.”

Beijing Olympic organising committee spokesman Sun Weide told reporters later Wednesday that the foreigners gathered illegally.

“The Chinese government has very clear laws and regulations pertaining to demonstrations and protest and we hope that foreigners abide by these laws and regulations,” Sun said.

“We oppose any attempts to politicise the games and we hope that foreigners accept our rules and laws pertaining to demonstrations and protests.”

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