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Four foreigners held for protests in Beijing

Four foreign protesters are held after unfurling Tibet independence banners in Beijing, and three Americans tested Olympic security measures by using central Tiananmen Square to decry abortions.

world Updated: Aug 06, 2008 22:52 IST

Four foreign protesters were held after unfurling Tibet independence banners in Beijing on Wednesday, and three Americans tested Olympic security measures by using central Tiananmen Square to decry abortions.

Two American and two British citizens displayed Tibetan flags and banners declaring “One World, One Dream: Free Tibet” and “Tibet will be free,” the group Students for a Free Tibet said in an email. One of the banners also said “Free Tibet” in Chinese.

The four breached the general Chinese ban on protests, especially over restive Tibet, by scaling power poles near the heavily guarded Bird’s Nest Stadium, where the Olympics open on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported. The protest also came as the torch began passing through Beijing under tight security.

Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, said the protest was intended to dramatise complaints about Chinese rule in Tibet as Games preparations climax.

“As the Chinese leadership prepares its display of grandeur and power in Beijing ... it is waging a ruthless campaign of repression inside Tibet,” he said in the emailed statement.

Beijing Games spokesman Sun Weide told a news conference that his country has rules on “assemblies” and expects foreigners to respect them. China has a law allowing citizens to apply to protest, but approvals are virtually unheard of.

The two British protesters were Iain Thom, 24, and Lucy Marion, 23, and the two Americans were Phill Bartell, 34, and Tirian Mink, 32, said a statement on a Students for Free Tibet website.

Police rushed to the scene after 12 minutes and took them away, the Xinhua news agency said. Approaches to the Bird’s Nest Stadium are heavily guarded, but Students for a Free Tibet said the protesters showed the banners near it for nearly an hour.

The International Olympics Committee said it expected Beijing authorities would “act with tact and understanding” in responding to such acts. “People will use the platform to draw attention to their causes,” IOC spokesperson Emmanuelle Moreau said.