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Greek court acquits three activists over protest against Beijing Olympics

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Activists Tsela Zoksang and Joey Siu unfurl banners on scaffolding at the Acropolis in Athens. Oct. 2021 (Photo/SFT)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 23: Three activists who protested in Athens against the Beijing Olympics in October 2021 have been acquitted by a Greek court on Thursday for charges including “attempt to pollute, damage, and distort a historical monument”. The trio was facing up to five years in prison; 19-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang, 22-year-old Hong Konger Joey Siu and a 35-year-old Vietnamese activist staged a brief protest at the Acropolis in Athens holding up a Tibetan flag and a banner that read, “Free Hong Kong- Revolution” at scaffolding on the monument.

Slogans like, “Free Hong Kong Revolution”, “Free Tibet”, “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “No freedom, no Games” were reportedly heard at the site of protest in Oct. 2021. The activist group carried out a protest against the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to host the Winter Olympics in China, a country where allegations of human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong, and East Turkestan continue to rise.

“It was a great day for human rights’ activists in Tibet, Hong Kong and around the globe, and although it was a highly politically sensitive case, in the end it was justice and the rule of law that prevailed,” the trio’s lawyer Alexis Anagnostakis told Reuters.

The UK-based advocacy group Justice Abroad’s Director Michael Polak welcomed the court judgment, “Today’s result is a huge victory for the right to peaceful protest and for the Tibetan and Hong Kongese people.” Many rights groups at the time had called for a boycott of the Winter Games or else to postpone and relocate the venue unless China categorically ends what the US deems as ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other minority groups.

Siu and Zoksang were allowed to leave Greece after their arrests, but were told they must return to attend court next year. “By awarding the Chinese government the honour of hosting an Olympic Games yet again, the IOC is sending the world a message that it is OK to turn a blind eye to genocide and crimes against humanity,” the two on-site protestors said at the time.

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