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UK police drop charges against Tibetan protesters

November 2, 2015

Evening Standard, October 30, 2015 - The charges have been dropped against two Tibetan women arrested by the Metropolitan Police for waving flags at the Chinese president.

The activists, Sonam Choden, 30, and Jamphel Lhamo, 33, both from London, were arrested on October 21 after they reportedly attempted to wave Tibetan flags at President Xi Jinping’s passing car during the Chinese leader's visit to the capital.

Their homes were searched overnight while they were held in police custody on suspicion of suspicion of conspiracy to commit threatening behaviour, and the pair were released on bail the following day.

The women were informed on Wednesday that the charges against them of had been dropped, and at 6pm, police officers visited their homes and returned their confiscated mobile phones, laptops and USB sticks to them.

Tsering Passang, Chairman of Tibetan Community in Britain, said that although the charges had been dropped, the organisation would still be lodging a complaint against the Metropolitan Police.

He said: "Although Sonam and Jamphel are no longer facing charges from the police, it is unacceptable that they were put through this horrendous experience simply for waving the Tibetan flag.

"They were in police custody for 24 hours and had their homes searched and belongings confiscated.

"That's why we will be filing an official complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission and will be calling for a full investigation into this case."

Speaking after they were released on bail, the activists said in a joint statement: "We'd like to thank all Tibetans and supporters who have expressed their concern for us.

"We spontaneously decided to wave our Tibetan flags and make a stand on behalf of Tibetans in Tibet who do not have this right.

"We never expected to be arrested or to have to spend 24 hours in police custody.

"Even though this is nothing compared to what Tibetans in Tibet have to live through every day, the Metropolitan Police should allow all Tibetans and supporters to freely protest without fear of arrest.


"Surely the signing of billions of pounds in trade deals by the UK did not include signing away this fundamental right of all British citizens but in particular silencing Tibetans."

After the charges were dropped, the pair added: "We're extremely grateful to all those who showed their concern and support for us this past week. It's a relief that the charges have been dropped but we still maintain that we did nothing wrong.

"We will continue to protest for Tibet and to do whatever we can to highlight the plight of our fellow Tibetans inside Tibet."

The solicitor representing the protesters, Bill Nash of BSB Solicitors, said following their arrest that had never come across a similar case in 40 years of legal practice.

He said: "My clients were arrested for what was a peaceful and what many would see as a legitimate non-violent protest concerning the treatment of their country by the Chinese regime.

"Despite the fact that no one suggests that any violence was contemplated or offered a decision was taken to further arrest for an offence of Conspiracy to contravene section 5 of the Public Order Act of 1986.

"In over 40 years of legal practice I have never previously heard of an arrest for such an offence. This smacks of overreaction to a considerable degree.

"Perhaps it is time that we should focus some of our concentration on our own civil liberties at the same time as we criticise others for their stance on human rights."

Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East, raised the treatment of the protesters in an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on Monday and after receiving news that the charges had been dropped, he told the The Independent: “I’m absolutely delighted by this outcome.

"There were no charges to answer. They were protesting peacefully, legally, without any trouble. The idea that this was a conspiracy to breach the peace would not have stood up in court.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Following further enquiries, investigating officers have now determined there is insufficient evidence to proceed and no further action should be taken."

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