Mar 07 Protests for Olympics, but not in Beijing

Aug. 08, 2008, 7:45 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING, China (AP) Tiananmen Square was sealed off. Foreigners who protested in recent days arrived home after being deported, and locals who did the same were in custody.

Chinese authorities were on their highest alert Friday in the final hours before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, guarding against anyone who might try to take the shine off the curtain raiser that will watched worldwide.

The tight controls imposed by China's autocratic government have so far ensured the handful of protests in the host city have been small, and relatively quiet. Such relative calm was not in evidence in other places.

In the Nepalese capital of Katmandu, hundreds of Tibetan exiles demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy Friday demanding an end to what they say is Beijing's brutal rule in the Himalayan territory.

"China thief, leave our country. Stop killing in Tibet," the protester chanted.

Police said they detained more than 400 people, many of them women, but that they would likely be freed later Friday.

In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, Briton Matt Pearce was detained after unfurling two banners on a major bridge. Wearing a mask of a horse's head and a white shirt bearing the Olympic rings, Pearce hung banners reading, "We want human rights and democracy" and "The people of China want freedom from oppression." Hong Kong police said Pearce was being held for questioning on a possible charge of causing a public nuisance.

Activists were planning big demonstrations later Friday in foreign capitals including London, Paris and Berlin. Rallies were held in Australia and planned in the Philippines and India.

The Beijing Games have become a focus for activists critical of China on a range of issues from China's human rights record to its heavy-handed rule in Tibet, abortion policies and its repression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Beijing considers the games, which it invested billions of dollars and seven years to prepare, a huge source of national pride and is doing all it can to make sure it goes off without a hitch - such as ugly television images of protesters scuffling with police.

Authorities this week deported at least seven foreigners who protested at Tiananmen Square and near a major Olympic venue.

Three Americans - Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Brandi Swindell and Mike McMonagle - were sent back to Los Angeles after unfurling banner "Jesus Christ is king" in the square for two consecutive days, criticizing the government's handling of issues ranging from forced abortions to pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.

Another group of foreign activists was also deported to San Francisco and Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday - a day after putting up "Free Tibet" banners on lamp poles outside the Beijing National Stadium.

A Chinese woman who protested the forced eviction from her house Monday at Tiananmen Square, has been put under a three-day detention, her family said.

Zhang Wei was among a group of angry residents who lost their traditional family compounds near the square to make way for the city's redevelopment.

Her son Mi Yu said Zhang called home Thursday, saying she would be officially detained for three days. She did not elaborate because police officers were with her, Mi said. Police would not comment.

Tiananmen, at the heart of the Chinese government but also a powerful symbol of reform since a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, was locked down ahead of the games' opening ceremony Friday evening.

Trains are not stopping at the two stations near the square, and police patrolled an extensive security cordon at the square and the adjacent Great Hall of People, where President Hu Jintao hosted President Bush and dozens of other leaders at a lunch before they trooped off to join the Olympic celebrations.

Comments