By Loa Iok-sin/Staff Reporter
Members of the Grand Hotel management try to grab a Tibetan flag from a man who displayed it in the lobby yesterday. Tibet support groups protested in the lobby after their reservation of a news conference venue was canceled by the hotel.
Clashes broke out between Tibet support groups and Grand Hotel staff in the lobby yesterday after the management canceled a room reservation made by the groups in preparation for the arrival of a delegation headed by Sichuan Province Governor Jiang Jufeng.
“We have signed a [room rental] contract with you and it was clearly written on the contract that the room would be used to hold a press conference. How can you cancel our reservation at the last minute? Is this how the Grand Hotel honors its business contracts?” Taiwan Friends of Tibet (TFOT) president Chow Mei-li asked Grand Hotel manager Michael Chen after being informed of the cancelation.
TFOT’s press conference was to be held 30 minutes before the news conference by Jiang.PURPOSE
Chen said the reservation was canceled because the group rented the room “for certain purposes” that could “have an impact” on the hotel.
“Of course we came here for a purpose, who would reserve a hotel room without a purpose?” Chow said. “It’s written clearly on the contract that our purpose is to hold a press conference here.”
TFOT was to hold a press conference on the second floor of the hotel, as a symposium on business investment and tourism in Sichuan Province was to take place simultaneously on the 12th floor.
More serious verbal and physical conflict broke out when Tibetans accompanying Chow grew impatient and took out banners and Tibetan flags that were to be used to decorate the news conference venue. They shouted slogans calling on Jiang to release the more than 300 monks arrested from Kirti Monastery in the predominantly Tibetan area of Ngaba in Sichuan Province and to withdraw troops and police that had placed the monastery under siege.
The manager and other members of the hotel management tried to take the signs and banners from the Tibetans by force.
The two sides pushed and shoved, while hotel management and staffers chased Tibetans running around the lobby with Tibetan flags in hand.
Political commentator Paul Lin, head of the Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps who had been invited to talk at the press conference, fainted after his blood pressure spiked.POLICE INTERVENTION
The conflict ended when police arrived at the scene to break up the fight and helped negotiate terms for another room for TFOT and other supporting groups.
In the delayed news conference, Lin said that Jiang had served as Sichuan governor since 2007 and “should be held responsible for the arrests and bloody crackdowns of Tibetans in the province, as well as corruption and scandals related to the handling of donations” for the massive earthquake that devastated the province in May 2008.
Victims of Investment in China Association president William Kao warned entrepreneurs thinking of investing in Sichuan that it was not only one of the provinces in China with the worst human rights records, but also one with numerous cases of officials cheating Taiwanese investors.CRACKDOWN
Toward the end of the conference, a video showing images of Tibetans who died during bloody crackdowns by Chinese security officials was shown.
In tears after watching the video, Chow urged the public to express their concern over human rights abuses in Sichuan in whichever way possible.
“You don’t have to be a Buddhist, a Tibetan, or Taiwanese,” Chow said. “You can be anyone, but as a person, you should give your full support to the Tibetans suffering there.”