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August 25, 2008 · Print This Article

As Olympics Conclude, China pursues final propaganda push on Tibet


Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director, Han Shan, Olympics Campaign Coordinator
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Students for a Free Tibet activists worldwide welcome the news of the release of ten Tibet supporters, who had been jailed by Chinese authorities in Beijing during the Olympics. Chinese authorities deported eight American Tibet supporters as the Olympics closing ceremonies were concluding on Sunday night in Beijing. Hours later, the remaining two Tibet supporters in detention – a Briton and a German National of Tibetan descent – were also deported.

“After two days of negative publicity over its extrajudicial detention of ten Tibet supporters, the Chinese government is seeking to suppress a story that would have cast a shadow over the closing ceremony of these Olympic Games, which includes a final propaganda push to legitimize China’s rule in Tibet, with Tibetans singing and dancing along with other so-called “ethnic minorities,” said Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet.

The Beijing Olympics have become synonymous with overt Chinese government propaganda, heavy-handed security and intolerance of any form of protest or dissent. In the lead up to and during the Olympic Games, hundreds of Chinese have been placed under house arrest, have disappeared or suffer in re-education-through-labor camps since being swept up in an Olympics crackdown on human rights advocates and others Beijing considers ‘undesirables.’

“Thousands of Tibetans remain missing or detained in China’s ongoing crackdown against predominantly peaceful protests that began in Lhasa on March 10th and moved like a tidal wave across Tibet,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “During the Olympics, Tibetans have seen a vast troop build-up throughout the entire Tibetan plateau that suggests Chinese authorities are preparing a new assault against defenseless Tibetans who risked everything this spring, taking to the streets to demand human rights and freedom.”

Taiwanese-American tourist Wen Yan-King who was detained and interrogated in Kham, eastern Tibet the week before the Olympics, described the areas she visited as “a war zone.”

In order to conceal its intensifying repression in Tibet, the Chinese government has completely sealed off most of the Tibetan plateau. Tibetans in Tibet and Tibet analysts fear an escalation of the Chinese government’s clampdown in Tibet after the Olympic spotlight on China has moved on. Tibetans continue to live in a climate of surveillance, intimidation, acute fear, and a threat of violence from Chinese troops, paramilitary and police.

Students for a Free Tibet calls on the international community, and the International Olympic Committee in particular, to demand that the Chinese authorities immediately release all those people who have been unjustly detained for their political or religious views in China’s crackdown before and during the Olympics.


Notes for editors:

1) The four activists detained at 12:05am Beijing time on August 21, 2008 are:
-Jeremy Wells, 38, of New York, USA
-John Watterberg, 30, of New York, USA
-Florian Norbu Gyanatshang, 30, of Stuttgart, Germany
-Mandie McKeown, 41, of Bristol, United Kingdom

The four were swarmed at just past midnight by dozens of plainclothes police after a brief protest near the Bird’s Nest stadium. McKeown acted as an observer while Gyanatshang displayed a Tibetan flag and Wells and Watterberg raised their fists in the air in a gesture modeled on the 1968 protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City games. The action took place early Thursday morning shortly after the men’s 200-meter dash final at the Bird’s Nest, the event at which Carlos and Smith held their historic protest. See

2) The six Americans detained on August 19th are:
-James Powderly, 32, New York, USA
-Brian Conley, 28, Philadelphia, USA
-Jeffrey Rae, 28, New York, USA
-Jeffrey Goldin, 40, New York, USA
-Michael Liss, 35, New York, USA
-Tom Grant, 39, New York, USA

Powderly, a high-tech graffiti artist, was planning a pro-Tibet laser art exhibition in Beijing. The five others – photographers, videographers, writers and bloggers – have been documenting and supporting pro-Tibet demonstrations in Beijing. See

3) Fifty-three activists from the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Tibet, Australia, and Japan, including three Tibetans with foreign passports, have been detained and deported for participating in, observing or supporting pro-Tibet protests in Beijing since August 6th.


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