Tibetan rights activists claim a 'successful' Olympic campaign
DPA[Friday, August 22, 2008 15:38]
Beijing, August 22 - Two pro-Tibet activists said Friday that their US- based group's campaign during the Olympic Games to highlight the plight of Tibetans through a series of protests designed to embarrass China was "successful", vowing it was just the beginning. "I think we have been really successful. We have been able to put the spotlight on this issue, which is globally significant," said Ginger Cassady, 30, from San Francisco, California.

"This is not the end of our campaign, this is just the beginning," said her British companion, Alice Speller, 25. She said the next step was to educate Chinese people about the "real situation" in Tibet.

The two were speaking at a press conference which they said wrapped up the Olympic period campaign that began on August 6 and involved eight demonstrations in Beijing organized by their group, Students for a Free Tibet.

The group has 700 chapters worldwide and has held demonstrations during the Olympic torch relay in other countries, including one on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

In Beijing during the past two weeks, the demonstrators unfurled pro-Tibet banners and displayed Tibetan flags on Tiananmen Square, near Olympic venues such as the Bird's Nest stadium, and some chained themselves to a gate of a Beijing park to protest what they say is the plight China's ethnic minorities' culture.

In every incident, Beijing police quickly responded, taking away the banners and flags and detaining the protestors, deporting most of them almost immediately.

Altogether about 50 foreigners, including Tibetans of mixed race and foreign nationality, took part in demonstrating or helping to organize the protests, which occurred sometimes every other day.

Another 100 people overseas helped with coordination, contacting the media and other tasks, the women said.

Ten of the 50 activists who came to China, all on tourist visas, remained under detention, and at least seven were known to have been ordered to serve 10 days in administrative detention, according to the activists.

The women said many had taken time off work to travel to China to bring attention to China's suppression of human rights in Tibet and its stepped up control since the Tibetan uprising and subsequent crackdown in March, in which rights groups said as many as 100 Tibetans were killed.

The pro-Tibet campaign involved activists from at least seven countries, including the US, Britain, Germany and Japan.

"It has shown to the world and Chinese government that people of conscience around the world will stand up and speak with solidarity for Tibetans, that they also support Tibetans' cause," said Speller.

Uniformed and plainclothes police videotaped and listened in on the women as they spoke to about 20 journalists, photographers and cameramen outside the Jianguomenwai Diplomatic Compound, where many foreign correspondents work.

Police did not interrupt the news conference or arrest the women, but Cassady, who was reached by phone later, said four black, unmarked vehicles had been following them since they got into a taxi afterwards.

"We pulled over a few times and they also pulled over," Cassady said.

Listen to audio of the press conference here.

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