Free Tibet protester falls from consulate

August 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Protesters in San Francisco staged a demonstration outside the Chinese Consulate Wednesday in anticipation of the summer Olympic opening ceremonies which take place Friday. They were protesting human rights in Tibet, until something went wrong.

The protest Wednesday morning was organized by Students for a Free Tibet. They had two women on top of the consulate building. One of them was hanging over the edge and suspended by climbing ropes. She was in a mock hanging pose up near a top row of windows. A little after 8:00 a.m. she fell suddenly 10 to 15 feet down to a small balcony above the consulate door.

Still photographs taken by members of the protest group show 22-year-old Nyendak Wangdu just minutes before she fell. Witnesses who say the fall say they saw her slam into a strut holding one of the flag poles before tumbling onto a small balcony. She lay there until fire crews could get a ladder to bring her down.

"When she fell, I mean, I just started shaking and I'm crying," said Tenzin Khando with Students for a Free Tibet.

Khando said that someone on top of the consulate roof had cut the ropes that held Wangdu. After firefighters got Wangdu into an ambulance she was taken to San Francisco General. Her sister, Jamyang McQuillen, is an emergency room nurse who had just come from a wedding and was waiting outside the emergency room.

"I heard that she's got a wrist fracture and she's got some back and neck pain, but she's alert and oriented, so I'm really happy about that," said McQuillen.

We asked Derek St. Pierre, the lawyer representing Wangdu, if it was true that someone on the consulate roof cut the ropes that were holding her.

"I have seen the actual ropes, both the primary rope as well as the secondary rope appear to have knife cuts in them," said St. Pierre. "There is no other way that a reinforced climbing rope tears in that fashion."

Witnesses say Wangdu and Brianna Morgan, also from San Francisco, climbed to the roof of the building from the backside where there is a fire escape. Once on the roof, their plan was to hang over the edge with banners decrying China's occupation of Tibet.

Wangdu's sister says their family fled Tibet in 1959 and then immigrated from India to San Francisco 12 years ago. Now with the Olympics just two days away, she understands her sister's desire to demonstrate.

"For us Tibetans this is an opportunity to speak our voice and I can understand why my sister used this opportunity. I would have done it if I was in her space, too," said McQuillen.

A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate would not say if someone from the consulate cut the climbing ropes. He angrily accused the police of not providing enough security.

"We rely on the local police forces to protect us. I have mentioned, we've requested recently many times -- asked American side to strengthen their protection," said consulate spokesman Defa Tong.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Wangdu was taken from the hospital to a federal lockup in Dublin. She is expected to appear in court Thursday.

San Francisco Police say this is now a federal case. Morgan has been charged with harassing a diplomat. Police are saying anything about the actions of any of the Chinese inside or on the roof.

The consulate is in San Francisco, but it's considered Chinese territory, making this a very difficult and delicate investigation.

Related link: Watch video of the protest posted on YouTube by the Tibetan Youth Congress (SF chapter)


Load Comments