Anti-China activist injured in San Francisco

Aug. 06, 2008, 7:12 p.m. (ET)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Two days before the opening ceremony in the Beijing Olympics, a Tibetan activist protesting China's human rights record was injured when she fell 15 feet while staging a mock hanging from the roof of the Chinese consulate.

Two women dressed in black strung a rope from the roof of the building Wednesday morning, holding banners that said, "Stop the Killing in Tibet" while other protesters from Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan Youth Congress waved signs, police said.

The demonstrator hanging from the rope was hurt when the rope snapped and she fell to a balcony, from where she was rescued by firefighters.

Four fire trucks and several police cars blocked the streets surrounding the consulate as the demonstrator, Nyendak Wangden, 22, of San Francisco, was lowered onto a gurney from an escape ladder. Wangden was taken to the trauma center at San Francisco General Hospital, according to Mindy Talmidge, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Fire Department.

"She didn't suffer any life-threatening injuries," Talmidge said.

About a foot of climbing rope was still dangling from the side of the building as fire fighters took Wangden away

Protesters claimed consular personnel on the roof attacked the demonstrators and cut the rope, causing Wangden's fall.

San Francisco police, the State Department and the U.S. attorney's office were conducting a joint investigation of the incident. A police spokesman said he could not confirm if there was foul play involved.

"We can't say what the investigation entails," said Sgt. Wilfred Williams.

Chinese consular officials would not comment on whether personnel on the roof engaged with the protesters, but spokesman Defa Tong said that the protesters' "scheme was detected and checked by this consulate."

Consular officials were angry at the lack of protection that allowed the protesters to scale the building.

"The American side bears an unshirkable responsibility for this incident," said Tong.

Police were drawn to the scene when officers patrolling the area saw protesters gathering near the consulate, including three who had chained themselves together in front of the building. They were detained but immediately released. The other two protesters were detained as part of the investigation, and were being held Wednesday afternoon, Williams said.

Protesters who witnessed the fall were shaken.

"We were here to do something nonviolent, and now this," said Tenzin Khando, 22, of Salt Lake City. She wiped away tears as she watched firefighters load Wangden into one of their trucks.

China's human rights record and its policies in Tibet have been a flash point for protests in China and around the world in the months leading up to the Summer Games. Activists used the Olympic torch's passage through major cities to highlight their causes.

Demonstrations and discussions about the issue are continuing in the days leading up the game's opening ceremony Aug. 8.

World leaders are weighing China's economic might against its human rights record as they decide whether to attend the celebration. Protesters remain intent on turning the event into a public relations disaster for the host country.

Also Wednesday, a half-dozen people chained themselves to the front gate of the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, Canada, to protest human rights abuses in Tibet.

And in the last week, 56 monks, nuns and other Tibetan exiles were detained by Indian police trying to cross into China to protest, and Italian government officials caused an uproar with their suggestion that athletes protest China's human rights policies with symbolic gestures.

In Germany, a water polo player donned orange robes characteristic of Tibetan monks, then posed with other German athletes for a photograph in which their faces were covered by those of pictures of jailed Chinese dissidents.

China, once slow to address criticism, has been condemning the demonstrations as unfair attacks aimed at tarnishing the Olympics.