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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China returns detained activists to NYC

August 27, 2008

By SARA KUGLER
The Associated Press
August 26, 2008

NEW YORK, Aug. 25 -- Eight American activists jailed by the Chinese
for protesting during the Olympics said Monday after being sent home
from Beijing that they were interrogated for hours, deprived of sleep
and accused of having ties to the U.S. government.

The activists were sent home late Sunday during the closing ceremony.
Some were activists and artists who demonstrated against China's
occupation of Tibet; others were bloggers who photographed the protests.

Speaking outside City Hall in New York, the detainees said they were
kept in cells and were allowed to leave only for interrogations,
which sometimes lasted for hours. Some said they emerged more
dedicated than ever to their cause.

"Our conditions were uncomfortable, but because we're Westerners, we
suffered absolutely nothing compared to what the Tibetan people
suffer," said John Watterberg, a 30-year-old musician who lives in New York.

The U.S. government expressed disappointment Sunday that the Olympics
did not bring more "openness and tolerance" in China.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that "the
protesters participated in 'Tibet independence' activities and that
is against China's law."

The statement said China hoped "the relevant countries will teach
their citizens to abide and respect China's laws."

Watterberg and another New Yorker, Jeremy Wells, said they were
tackled and detained the evening of Aug. 20 while staging a
demonstration with two other activists outside the National Stadium,
one of the main Olympics venues.

During an initial interrogation, they were told they had broken
Chinese law and would be held for 10 days. They were then moved to a
detention center, where they were locked in a cell and allowed to
leave for interrogations that lasted between four and 16 hours.

With lights shining on them, prisoners were locked into high-backed
metal chairs with bars across their laps.

Interrogators, sometimes speaking through interpreters, would not let
them sleep and accused them at times of working for state-funded
groups and organizations that had ties to the U.S. government, the
activists said.

"They asked about our actions, our roles, about our lives --
everything from where I went to high school to everything I ate in
China," Wells said.

Detainees said they wore dirty uniforms of red T-shirts and black
shorts. Drinking water was turned on for only 15 minutes a day, so
prisoners would scramble to fill old soda bottles or other containers.

"It was the scariest -- it was beyond anything I could imagine in a
movie," said Jeff Rae, a 28-year-old photojournalist from New York.
Rae said he was videotaping a demonstration when he was detained Aug. 18.

Some of the detainees said they asked daily to speak with the U.S.
Embassy but were not allowed to do so until a day or two after they
were imprisoned.

They said they were given no warning about their release and were not
told why they were being let go. Once the prisoners were rounded up
and put into vans, possessions that had been seized days earlier were
returned to them. The luggage the detainees had left at their hotel
rooms was also rounded up and given back.

Many detainees said the Chinese officials kept some of their
electronics, like cameras, laptops and media cards.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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