By Ben Blanchard
A new documentary made by a pro-Tibet group on what Tibetans think of the Olympics premiered in Beijing on Wednesday under a veil of secrecy.
The film, "Leaving Fear Behind", was shown to a small group of foreign reporters in a dingy hotel room in central Beijing, not far from Tiananmen Square.
Security officials did not interrupt the screening but Dechen Pemba, a British Tibetan woman deported from China last month, told Reuters by telephone that a second screening was halted by the hotel, under police instructions.
"Now that the Olympic Games are finally upon us, it's a chance to show how Tibetans feel and what their hopes are," Dechen Pemba said in a videoed statement.
The film featured a series of interviews with Tibetans talking about how their culture had been trampled on, how they still loved exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and how they viewed the Olympics as having done little to improve their lives.
"Outsiders may think that the Tibetans are treated very well and that they are happy. But the truth is that Tibetans are not free to speak of their suffering," one Tibetan said on the film.
"Even if I had to sacrifice my life for this message to be seen by the Dalai Lama, I agree and welcome this chance," said another.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.
Farmer Dhondup Wangchen and his monk friend Golog Jigme were detained shortly after finishing the film, but managed to smuggle tapes out of the country. "It is very difficult for Tibetans to go to Beijing and speak out there. So that is why we decided to show the real feelings of Tibetans inside Tibet through this film," Dhondup Wangchen said in the film.
Four foreign protesters displaying pro-Tibet banners near the main Bird's Nest stadium were detained earlier in the morning, in a measure of the issue's sensitivity ahead of Friday's Olympics opening ceremony.
China has accused followers of the Dalai Lama of stirring riots and protests in Tibetan regions in March in a bid to upstage Olympic preparations. The Dalai Lama has denied the claim and said he does not oppose the Games.
But groups campaigning for an independent Tibet have said the Olympics should be an opportunity to voice criticism of Chinese policy.
Check www.leavingfearbehind.com for more information.