August 6, 2008

China: Series of Protests Staged Amid Tight Olympic Security in Beijing – Kyodo

Text of report in English by Japan's largest news agency Kyodo

[By John Duce]

Beijing, Aug. 6 Kyodo - A series of small protests were held in Beijing on Wednesday as demonstrators attempted to evade the massive security operation in place for the Olympic Games.

Four American and British activists belonging to Students for a Free Tibet, a New York-based advocacy group, were detained by Chinese authorities after unfurling "Free Tibet" banners, the group said on its website.

The protesters - two American men and a man and a woman from Britain - staged their protest at dawn on a bridge near the National Stadium, which will host the Olympics' opening ceremony on Friday.

Two of the men climbed light poles to display the banners on a bridge near the stadium, with one reading "One World, One Dream. Free Tibet" and the other "Tibet will be free."

A statement from the Public Security Bureau in Beijing released later Wednesday confirmed that the four have been arrested. "At the moment the police are further investigating the matter," it said.

The same protest group made headlines around the world last August when activists abseiled down the side of the Great Wall of China near Beijing to unfurl a giant Free Tibet banner.

In another protest, a US-based religious group says three of its members were arrested after staging a small demonstration in Tiananmen Square against religious persecution, forced abortion, suppression in Tibet and denial of fundamental civil liberties.

The Washington-based Christian Defence Coalition said the three people unfurled a banner in the square, saying "Jesus Christ is King" in Chinese and English.

A spokesman for the group, Rev. Rob Schenck, told Kyodo News that the three then laid flowers on the ground to honour those killed during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations and prayed for greater religious freedom and tolerance in China.

Schenck said members of the group who were observing the protest nearby saw members of the security services lead the two men and one woman away. They have had no contact with them since, he said.

"We are obviously extremely concerned for their welfare and we would urge the Chinese authorities to release them promptly," he said.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Beijing said he was unable to give any information about the case because of American confidentiality laws, but added, "We urge China to be tolerant when it comes to issues of human rights, tolerance and freedom of expression."

The Public Security Bureau in Beijing has yet to reply to Kyodo News' request for information about the case.

In a third protest, reporters received an anonymous e-mail directing them to go to two hotel rooms in the city for a "significant attention-getting event."

In one of the hotel rooms, a Kyodo News reporter found slogans daubed on the walls criticizing China's human rights record. Furniture was overturned and a dummy was placed in a seat with a black bag on its head, apparently symbolizing a political prisoner.

Among the slogans written on the walls was "Beijing 2008. One World, One Nightmare," a play on the official Olympic slogan "One World, One Dream."

Another slogan called for the release of various people detained in China, including religious figures, civil rights activists and journalists. The names included the Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, who was sentenced earlier this year to three-and-a-half years in prison for subversion.

Reporters trying to visit the same room later Wednesday were turned away by staff at the door. The Kyodo News reporter was unable to gain access to the other hotel room mentioned in the e-mail.

A further e-mail sent to journalists said details of the protest would be given later at a press conference in California held by a group called the Hacienda Christian Fellowship.

In a fourth protest, a pro-Tibet group, which refused to reveal its name to reporters, attempted to clandestinely show foreign journalists a video about Tibet at a hotel room in Beijing, which again criticized China's rights record.

The hotel manager stopped the video and pleaded for journalists to leave, saying showing the film would land his business in trouble.

A young European man hosting the video, who refused to give his name, said, "I'm sorry you didn't get to see what we wanted to see. We'll get the information on what you came to see to you as soon as possible."

The BBC was earlier secretly shown the same film, uninterrupted, at another hotel in Beijing.

A BBC reporter, who asked not to be named, told Kyodo News, "It was lots of interviews filmed in Tibet before March commenting on China, the Olympics, and religious freedom, voicing a lot of criticism."

"We were told that the two Tibetans who made the film are now in detention," he added.

The footage was smuggled out of Tibet in March ahead of the rioting and antigovernment protests which hit the region later that month.

The excerpt that Kyodo News viewed was introduced by Dechen Pemba, a British citizen of Tibetan origin who was deported from China in July for allegedly having links to illegal separatist organizations.

A statement released by e-mail by the group showing the film said it was filmed by Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan farmer, and a monk named Golog Jigme, and was edited and produced by Tibetan exiles in Switzerland.

About 150,000 police and members of the military are patrolling the streets of the Chinese capital in the run-up to the Olympics, according to figures quoted by state-run media.

Nearly 300,000 volunteers, mainly retired people wearing red arm bands, have also been deployed on virtually every street in the city to watch for disturbances.

The Chinese government has said rights groups, as well as terrorist organizations, are among those attempting to disrupt the Games.

Originally published by Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1147 6 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.