|TIBET CAMPAIGNERS DETAINED IN BEIJING FOR OLYMPICS PROTEST ACTIVISTS UNFURL BANNER, VOW INTENSIFIED OPPOSITION TO BEIJING 2008
Beijing - Just hours after the Olympic flag was handed from Athens to Beijing, two members of the International Tibet Support Network (ITSN) today unfurled a banner reading 'No Olympic for China until Tibet is Free' at the Ethnic Minorities Park in Beijing, part of the 2008 Olympic complex currently under construction. The activists, Han-shan of the United States and Liam Phelan of Australia, have been detained by Chinese police along with two journalists. The action followed a briefing for foreign journalists based in Beijing about ITSN's opposition to China hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. Representatives of three Tibet Support Groups, from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, said that the action signaled their intention to intensify pressure on the Chinese government to end its occupation of Tibet and improve its dismal human rights record by 2008.
"Whilst China celebrates receiving the Olympic flag, hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners still languish in prison and the Tibetan people live without basic human rights," said Alison Reynolds, Director of the UK-based Free Tibet Campaign, speaking in Beijing. "As long as the Chinese government continues to occupy Tibet, it does not deserve the honour of hosting a prestigious international event such as the Olympic Games."
"We've come to Beijing to let the Chinese government know that the next four years will see an increase in the international campaign to achieve rights and freedom for the people of Tibet and the people of China,"
said Han-shan of Students for a Free Tibet, based in New York City. "If the situation in Tibet does not drastically improve, the 2008 Games will be tainted by massive opposition and inevitable Chinese government crackdowns."
The action in Beijing follows a month of activities in Athens by representatives of the International Tibet Support Network highlighting their opposition to the Beijing 2008 Olympics. According to Paul Bourke, Executive Officer of the Australia Tibet Council, "the activities in the two countries were carefully co-ordinated, and intended to demonstrate the determination of Tibet supporters to make the 2008 Games a catalyst for change in Tibet." Wangpo Tethong said from Athens, "I call upon all Tibetans and our supporters and friends in China to use every opportunity in the coming four years to raise their voices for the freedom of Tibet, for the people of Eastern Turkestan and for a democratic and free China."
Prior to the closing ceremonies in Athens on 29 August, Tibetans attempted to deliver banners depicting five bullet holes in the shape of the Olympic rings to International Olympic Committee representatives in the Olympic Stadium. They were stopped by police officers who confiscated everything they were carrying. The activists then held a sit-in in silent and peaceful protest. Tibet campaigners also called on spectators and athletes at the Athens closing ceremonies not to applaud when the Olympic flag was handed to the Mayor of Beijing.