Protesters at home focus on Tibet

August 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Olympic Games begin early Friday morning and all the world is watching, but protestors here at home, and even President Bush are focusing on China's human rights record. At the dedication of the new U.S. embassy in Beijing Thursday, the president gently criticized China for repressing its own people. Protestors in the Bay Area are using much less restraint.

The opening ceremony is at 5 a.m. Pacific Time and like everyone else, protesters have been eagerly anticipating the start of the Olympics, but for very different reasons.

In Beijing, the Chinese are making last-minute preparations, putting the finishing touches on the Olympic venues. In San Francisco meanwhile, pro-Tibetan activists continue to speak out.

"We are here to really mourn all the Tibetans who have been killed," said Tenzin Dasang, from the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Thursday night's vigil marks the end of a long stretch of pre-Olympic demonstrations that began well over a year ago when Tibet supporters staged a protest at Mt. Everest. They did the same thing a few months later on the Great Wall.

Then, in April, protesters unfurled two massive banners on the Golden Gate Bridge. All have been non-violent and without injury, until Wednesday at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco protester Nyendak Wangden fell 15 feet and broke her wrist. They accuse consular officials of cutting the rope she was using as part of her demonstration.

"I'm just lucky to be alive right now and if things like that can happen in the United States of America then I can't imagine what's happening in China and Tibet right now," said Wangden.

Despite Wangden's injury, Tibet supporters vow to press on with their high-profile stunts -- especially in China, where an undisclosed number of protesters have been deployed. Deyden Thethong is with Students for a Free Tibet, which is responsible for many of the demonstrations so far to date.

"It's planned as much as it can be, but based on the situation in Beijing it's got to be left up to each day as it comes," said Thethong.

The big challenge is evading Chinese Police. Officers are everywhere. The two men who successfully unfurled two pro-Tibetan banners outside the bird-nest stadium Wednesday, were considered lucky.

Patrick Hatcher Ph.D. is a professor at USF's Center for the Pacific Rim He predicts other protesters won't be as lucky avoiding detection by the Chinese.

"They're very well trained to spot trouble, and make an end to the trouble and that is to tackle the person with a banner, to quickly wrap him in some sort of way and push him into a van and he's gone," said Hatcher.

A crackdown on protesters has already begun. Three Americans arrived at LAX Thursday night after being deported by Chinese officials trying to hold a protest in Tiananmen Square. The men say they were preparing to denounce China's abortion policy and lack of religious freedom.

There is no doubt, there will be more stories like this as the Olympics get underway.


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