Four activists in London, UK, were detained this morning for abseiling off Westminster bridge and unfurling a 74 square meter protest banner reading, “One World, One Dream: Free Tibet 2008,” mocking China’s Olympics slogan “One World, One Dream.”
The action took place on the eve of the controversial arrival of China’s Olympic torch relay in London, amidst mounting pressure on the International Olympic Committee to remove all Tibetan areas from the relay route.
Pema Yoko (25) of Greenwich, Conall Hon (26) originally from Belfast, Peter Speller (23) of Cambridge, and Dan Burston (22) of Birmingham were detained for their involvement in the action.
Over a thousand Tibetans and supporters are expected in the streets of London on Sunday to condemn China’s ongoing crackdown on freedom protests inside Tibet.
The action by Tibet activists comes as reports of violent crackdown by Chinese authorities on Tibetan demonstrators emerge out of Tibet. Chinese paramilitary forces opened fire on a crowd of unarmed monks and laypeople in southeastern Tibet On April 3, killing at least 8 people.
“The Chinese government wants the British public to celebrate China at a moment when Tibetans are being gunned down by Chinese forces for doing nothing more than speaking out for freedom,” said Pema Yoko, National Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet UK, a British born Tibetan and one of the activists detained.
“With Tibetans being rounded up, brutalized and killed, it is unconscionable for the International Olympic Committee to allow China to take the Olympic torch through Tibet,” she said.
Chinese authorities in Tibet have stated their intention to ensure stability during the torch relay ‘at all costs,’ which means increased militarization of Tibetan areas. According to the Chinese authorities’ own figures, thousands of people have been detained in recent weeks, with speedy show trials promised before May 1.
“China’s attempt to politicize the London leg of the torch relay was heightened this week when China’s ambassador to Britain, Fu Ying announced her participation in the relay. Also, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is scheduled to officially receive the torch at 10 Downing Street,” the free Tibet group said in a statement.
“It is appalling that Gordon Brown plans to receive the Olympic torch tomorrow. As someone with Chinese and British roots, I feel strongly that Britain must take a firm stance against China’s abuses in Tibet,” said Conall Hon (26), member of Students for a Free Tibet to abseil off the bridge. “If the Chinese government wants acceptance from the international community, it must immediately stop its baseless attacks on the Dalai Lama and start working toward a meaningful solution to the Tibetan issue.”
China’s deadly attack on Tibetans in Tongkor Township (Karze County) in southeastern Tibet on April 3rd came after Chinese authorities detained two monks for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama following a raid by over 3,000 armed police at Tongkor monastery. The police opened fire on the crowd of over 700 people, nearly half of whom were monks, gathered to protest the arrests. All Tibetan areas remain closed off to independent media, but eyewitness reports from all across Tibet describe horrific beatings, suicide attempts by monks locked inside their monasteries, house-to-house searches, and large groups of Tibetans being boarded onto trains at Lhasa’s new railway station. As the situation inside Tibet remains critical, several peaceful protests and actions are planned for tomorrow’s relay here in London.