BEIJING: Activists wrapped themselves in Tibetan flags on Saturday and lay down in Tiananmen Square in a protest that was angrily rejected by Chinese onlookers who followed the group and shouted “Get out!” The demonstration by five members of Students for a Free Tibet was a breach of heavy security in the heart of Beijing on the first full day of competition in the Olympic Games.

The protesters, three American, a Canadian and a German, “were calling for an end to the Chinese government’s occupation in Tibet,” according to Lhadon Tethong, executive director of the New York-based group. They clasped each others’ hands and walked around the square, chanting “Freedom for Tibet,” and “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet” , a play off a Beijing Olympics motto, according to a video footage.

While their protest was initially regarded with curiosity by onlookers, a group of young Chinese men suddenly started shouting “Get out! Get out!” and began aggressively surrounding the foreigners, the footage showed. Some wore red and yellow headbands, China’s national colors.

They eventually were separated from the protesters by men who appeared to be plainclothes security agents and were led away, said John Hocevar, a member of Students for a Free Tibet who was videotaping the protest. He said he did not know where they were taken. Officials at the Beijing Public Security Bureau and Tiananmen Square police station would not comment.

The action came a day after three Americans from the group were detained while displaying Tibetan flags near the entrance to National Stadium, which hosted the opening ceremony for the games Friday night. They were deported Saturday on flights to New York, the group said. On Wednesday, four other members hung pro-Tibet banners from two light poles outside the stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. They were led away by police and later deported to Europe and the United States.

“The Chinese government is seeking to cover up its ugly occupation of Tibet with the bright lights of the Olympics,” Matt Whitticase, a spokesman for the group, said in a statement on Saturday. Also on Saturday, security officers in Hong Kong removed a university student who tried to display the Tibetan flag during the Olympics equestrian competition.

Seated in the front row, the student, Christina Chan, displayed a placard bearing the Canadian flag. When she tried to peel away the Canadian flag to reveal a Tibetan flag beneath it, security officers covered her with a blue cloth and asked her to leave. They carried her out of the venue after she refused.

Pro-Tibet activists around the world have staged demonstrations in the run-up to the Summer Games, claiming China is using the sporting event to legitimize its rule in Tibet. Tibet has been an extremely sensitive topic since protests against almost 50 years of Chinese rule turned violent in the region’s capital of Lhasa in March. Many Tibetans insist they were an independent nation before Communist troops invaded in 1950, while Beijing says the Himalayan region has been part of its territory for centuries.

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