Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

British activists face threat of jail at Olympics

July 25, 2008

Foreign Office spells out dangers to Beijing visitors
Chinese to take tough line on athletes and spectators
Paul Kelso
July 24, 2008

British spectators and athletes have been warned that they face
arrest and detention by the Chinese authorities if they stage
demonstrations during next month's Beijing Olympics.

Many activists are based in the UK and will be travelling to China as
tourists or sports fans, with a number of groups planning protests in
Beijing and Hong Kong, which is hosting the equestrian events.

Athletes, meanwhile, have been encouraged by groups including Free
Tibet and Team Darfur to use the global platform provided to make
political statements at medal ceremonies, during competition or
during media appearances. There are genuine concerns in Beijing and
within International Olympic Committee circles that the issue could
overshadow the Games, which begin on August 8.

In April the Beijing Olympic torch relay through London was
repeatedly interrupted by pro-Tibetan activists and the torch was
subsequently met by similar protests in Paris and San Francisco.

Yesterday the Foreign Office warned that anyone attempting to protest
about sensitive subjects such as the occupation of Tibet or the
repression of the Falung Gong spiritual practice is likely to face a
hostile reaction. "British nationals should be aware that involvement
in demonstrations or distributing political leaf-lets without
application is not tolerated and they could be arrested," a spokeswoman said.

Some 35,000 tickets have been sold to Britons via the British Olympic
Association but many have gone to families and friends of athletes.
As few as 1,000 have bought official Olympic tours from the BOA's
licensed UK travel company but the number could swell to 15,000 when
expatriates and tourists are included.

The Foreign Office is not issuing specific advice for the 313 British
athletes but it has drawn their attention to the IOC's charter, which
prohibits athletes from indulging in "territorial, political,
religious propaganda" in areas controlled by the IOC, including
stadia and the Olympic village.

The Free Tibet movement has urged athletes supportive of its cause to
make 'T for Tibet' signs with their hands. Team Darfur, meanwhile, a
coalition opposed to China's close ties to the Sudanese regime,
claims to have signed up 73 athletes.

As previously revealed by the Guardian, senior IOC figures are deeply
concerned that protests by athletes could prompt a public backlash
from China, already riding a wave of nationalism as the Games approach.

The Foreign Office's warning comes as Beijing revealed that it will
set up three "protest pens" where activists will be able to stage
demonstrations. It was unclear last night whether Chinese nationals
would be able to use the pens or what causes will be acceptable to
the authorities.

The idea, which was immediately condemned by organisations including
Human Rights Watch, is an attempt to compromise between the Chinese
hard-line approach and the freedom to demonstrate demanded by critics
of Beijing.

Nicholas Bequelin, a spokesman for HRW, said: "The obstacles and
deterrents are so high as to negate the right to demonstrate. We are
also concerned about the possibility that the authorities might use
the existence of these zones to justify repressive measures outside
of the zones. Aggressive or systematic videotaping, requirement for
individual registrations and excessive controls at the entry and exit
points of the zones would amount to deterring protesters, who have
legitimate concerns in China about possible retaliation afterwards."

When China won the right to host the Games, its government promised
to use the occasion to roll back restrictive legislation and further
the cause of human rights but observers, including Amnesty
International, contend that repression has heightened as the Games approach.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank