13 Aug 2008

Pro-Tibetan protesters detained in Beijing

9:47 pm on 13 August 2008

Chinese security forces dragged away five United States pro-Tibet protesters who blocked the entrance to a northern Beijing park on Wednesday, breaking up the latest demonstration on the sidelines of the Olympics.

A British television journalist covering the protest said he had also been briefly detained and that at one point he was pinned to the ground by five police officers.

About half a dozen guards took hold of the protesters yelling "Free Tibet!" and led them away from the entrance to the Ethnic Culture Park, not far from the main Olympics sporting complex.

It was not known where the guards took the protesters, who wore T-shirts bearing the same slogan and had chained bicycles to the gate of the park.

Human rights group Students for a Free Tibet said in a statement that there were eight protesters in total, mostly US citizens. "While Tibetan song and dance is on display in Beijing, in Tibet, our culture is under siege and our people are being forcibly kept from speaking out about their repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities," said Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet.

John Ray, an accredited reporter with British Independent Television News, said he had been pushed and dragged into a police van where he was briefly detained.

The International Olympic Committee said it would investigate the incident. "The [committee's] position is clear: the media must be free to report on the Olympic Games."

Despite security officers fanning out across the city, 300,000 surveillance cameras and tightened visa controls, a number of pro-free Tibet groups have managed to hold small-scale protests across the city since the start of the Games.

Foreign protesters, lobbying for everything from religious freedom to Tibetan independence, have been released or sent home after being detained by police.