Journalist Attacked While Filming Tibet Protest in Beijing

09/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BEIJING — Police detained eight foreign activists and a British journalist attempting to cover their protest, as the latest in a series of demonstrations spurred jumpiness about dissent during the Olympics.

Seven of the activists were Americans; the eighth was a half-Tibetan woman with Japanese citizenship, said Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, the group that organized the protest.

John Ray of London-based ITV News said he was detained as he rushed to the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, south of the main Olympic stadium, where two protesters were blocking the main entrance and unfurling a "Free Tibet" banner on a park bridge.

Five other activists blocked the entrance of the park, which features a Tibet-related exhibit, and handcuffed themselves to each other and to bicycles around them. A sixth protester explained the reason for the demonstration, Tethong said.

The demonstration was the largest in a string of brief protests in Beijing since the games began last week. Most of the demonstrations have involved fewer than five people; foreign participants have been deported.

At a regular briefing Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued a stern warning.

"No matter Chinese citizens or foreigners, in China if you want to have processions or demonstrations, you should abide by Chinese laws and regulations," Qin said.

Beijing's leadership has been extra sensitive about Tibet since bloody anti-government protests erupted in March in the region's capital and nearby provinces.

Ray, 44, said he was stopped by an officer and a small struggle ensued, becoming more violent as additional police arrived.

"They bundled me out of the park. They forced me to the floor, dragged me, manhandled me into a restaurant next door," said Ray, who said he repeatedly told police he was a journalist but was not wearing his official Olympics media accreditation.

He said he was released after being dragged to the back of a van where he was asked in English what his views were on Tibet.

"Only at this stage am I able to reach in my pocket and show them my Olympic credential," Ray said. "The van door opened, and I just got out and walked."

Ray said he was far from the protesters when he was picked up, but was trying to get to them.

An official from the Beijing Public Security Bureau said officers mistook him for an activist.

Beijing has promised foreign journalists complete freedom to report the games, but unrestricted coverage away from the Olympic venues has been an open question.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said officials were looking into the incident.

"The IOC's position is clear: the media must be free to report on the Olympic Games," she said in a statement. "We are endeavoring to discover the full facts of this incident and, if necessary, will raise our concerns with the appropriate authority."

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders issued a statement saying incidents like the one involving Ray show that "the security services are still preventing the foreign press from working freely" at the games.

Also Wednesday, a rights group said Chinese activist Ji Sizun was taken away by security agents after applying for permission to protest during the Olympics against corruption.

Ji wanted to use one of three designated protest zones to urge "greater participation of Chinese citizens in the political processes, and denounce rampant official corruption and abuses of power," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

In July, China said protests would be allowed during the Olympics in three parks far away from the main venues. Applications must be filed five days in advance and a response would come 48 hours before the requested rally time, officials said.

The protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests," Liu Shaowu, the Beijing Olympics' security chief, said.

No demonstrations have been reported in the zones.

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Associated Press writer Stephen Wade contributed to the report.

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