11/07/01 Eight arrested as Tibetans demonstrate opposition to Beijing's Olympics bid

Wednesday, 11 July 2001

Five Tibetans and a Swiss supporter were arrested outside the Hotel Ukraine in Moscow this morning when they attempted to unfurl a banner declaring opposition to Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Two journalists were apparently also arrested at the time. The arrests were made in a climate of heavy intimidation from the Chinese government, that has permeated Moscow during the IOC meetings.

Karma Yeshi, Vice President of the Tibetan Youth Congress in India, and Takchul Rimpoche, a resident of Moscow, were arrested along with four Swiss residents: Alex Buchi and Chokey Choklay of the Swiss-Tibetan Friendship Association, and Yangzom Brauen and Tenzin Sewo of the Tibetan Youth Association of Europe.

"We are concerned for the safety of our friends", said Shola Dhondup of the Moscow Tibetan Association. "China has been putting a lot of pressure on the Russian government to make sure that our people have no opportunity to voice their opposition to Beijing's Olympics bid. If this is how they act in Russia, how will China treat us in Beijing if they get the Games?"

The Chinese Embassy had previously attempted to block a press conference sponsored by the Tibet Culture and Information Centre and the Transnational Radical Party, and is believed to have pressured the City of Moscow to deny Tibetans and supporters a permit to demonstrate near the meetings of the International Olympic Committee.

Tibetans plan to try to meet with the IOC Ethics Commission today at 3:00 to deliver khatags, traditional Tibetan scarves, signed by 5000 Tibetans opposed to Beijing's bid. "Tibetans and human rights advocates have sent over 100,000 postcards to Juan Samaranch without response," said Ngawang Gelek, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. "We want to give these khatags to the Ethics Commission to help demonstrate the level of opposition to Beijing's bid. While Beijing continues to maintain its brutal occupation of Tibet and deny the rights of its own citizens, how can the IOC feel that China is ready to represent the Olympic Ideal?"

Early reports suggest that those arrested may not be released until after the IOC makes its decision on Friday.