Tibet Activists protest on the Great Wall of China

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Activists detained following daring banner hang

HONG KONG – Six Tibet independence activists from the UK, US, and Canada(1) were detained today after abseiling from the top of the Great Wall of China with a 42m2 banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008” in English and Chinese. The dramatic action took place on the eve of the one-year countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Tibet advocacy groups assert that China is attempting to use the 2008 Games as a tool to legitimize its illegal occupation of Tibet. Chinese authorities removed the activists after two hours; their current whereabouts are unknown.

“The Chinese government is exploiting the Olympics to gain acceptance as a world leader. By protesting at the Great Wall, the most recognizable symbol of Chinese nationhood, we’re sending a clear message that China’s dream of international leadership cannot be realized as long as it continues its brutal occupation of Tibet,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “We’re appealing to the international community to shine the light of scrutiny on China in the coming year,” added Dorjee. “The Olympic dream of Tibetans is freedom by August 2008, and we call on the IOC and the global community to help us make this a reality.”

Today’s protest is also directed at the International Olympic Committee for failing to fulfil its commitment to hold the Chinese government accountable with regards to its human rights record. In 2002, IOC President Jacques Rogge said, “If … human rights are not acted upon [by China] to our satisfaction then we will act.”(2) According to a report released by Human Rights Watch last week, “the Chinese government shows no substantive progress in addressing long-standing human rights concerns.” (3)

Matt Whitticase, spokesperson for London based Free Tibet Campaign said, “The IOC assured the global community that China’s human rights record would improve as a result of staging the Games. Instead, we have seen the opposite with a hardening of China’s position in Tibet(4), a sustained government-sponsored resettlement program of Tibetan nomads(5), increased social and economic marginalization of Tibetans following the launch of the China-Tibet railway(6), and the closing off of Tibet to journalists and media scrutiny. (7)

“To stop the Chinese government from acting with impunity in Tibet, the IOC must publicly demand that journalists have unrestricted access to Tibet. By refusing to ‘act’, as it promised, the IOC only helps China to cover up its lamentable human rights record in Tibet.”

Lhadon Tethong, a Tibetan and the Executive Director of SFT, is currently in Beijing and will try to meet with IOC President Jacque Rogge today who is in Beijing for tomorrow’s celebrations. Tethong is demanding that the IOC immediately opposes propaganda efforts by the Chinese government to underscore its claim to Tibet, and use its influence to affect substantive progress on human rights in China and a meaningful resolution to the occupation of Tibet.

In Beijing since Wednesday, Tethong has been openly blogging at www.BeijingWideOpen.org, exposing the reality behind China’s blatant Olympics propaganda. To mark the Olympics one-year countdown, Tibetans and their supporters worldwide are organizing protests to demand a solution to the Tibet issue. Demonstrations will continue at China’s historical landmarks, sports arenas, and at Chinese Embassies and Consulates around the world between now and the August 2008 Games.

Notes to Editor:

The detained activists are: Melanie Raoul (Vancouver, Canada), Sam Price (Vancouver, Canada), Leslie Kaup (St. Paul, Minnesota), Nupur Modi (Oakland, California), Duane Martinez (Sausalito, California), Pete Speller (Cambridge, UK).

President Rogge was speaking on the BBC’s Hardtalk television programme in April, 2002.

Human Rights Watch press release available at: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/02/china16560.htm

In November 2005 Zhang Qingli, previously hardline Party Secretary in Xinjiang, was appointed Party Secretary to Tibet. He has made increasingly vitriolic public denunciations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, referring to “a fight to the death with the Dalai clique”.

Human Rights Watch report available at: http://hrw.org/reports/2007/tibet0607/index.htm

The official People’s Daily reported on 25 July 2007 that tourists traveling to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) in the first 6 months of 2007 reached 1.1 million, an increase of 86.3% over the same period for 2006, according to the regional tourism bureau. Xinhua reported on 9 May 2007 that the region is forecast to host 3 million visitors this year, a total that exceeds the population of the TAR.

Despite a pledge by Olympics Press Chief, Sun Weijia, that “they (foreign journalists) can travel anywhere in China. There will be no restrictions” (DPA, 28 September 2006), China subsequently announced that all foreign journalists must obtain a special permit prior to traveling to Tibet.