Huffpost Politics

Activists Unfurl Gigantic "Free Tibet" Banner On Beijing Building

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BEIJING — Foreign activists scaled a landmark building in Beijing on Friday to unfurl a "Free Tibet" banner over the top of an Olympic Games billboard, in the latest unauthorized protest during the games.

Students for a Free Tibet said five people _ three Americans, a Briton and a Canadian _ were detained by police after hanging the banner from the new headquarters of state-owned China Central Television, which is still under construction.

Television footage by Britain's Sky News showed the activists, draped in Tibetan nationalist flags and wearing helmets, dangling from ropes as they hung the black-and-white banner about 20 feet off the ground. Police quickly took the banner down.

The activists chose the CCTV building for the protest because it represented the government's use of state media to spread propaganda, said spokesman Kurt Langer.

"They're trying to whitewash their human rights record and present a pretty picture to the world when in fact behind the facade is an ugly reality and the situation in Tibet is as bad as it's been in a very long time," Langer told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Wang Wenjie from the Beijing Public Security Bureau said he did not have any information on the protest and said he needed written questions before he could comment. The official Xinhua News Agency said local police have ordered the protesters to leave the country.

It was the latest in a series of protests by pro-Tibet and other activists who have sought to use the Olympic Games to criticize China for alleged repressive rule in Tibet, rights abuses and religious restrictions. Other foreign demonstrators have been quickly deported.

The demonstration came a day after the International Olympic Committee urged China to allow foreign reporters at the games to report freely following accusations by a British journalist that he was roughed up by police as he tried to cover a protest. Police have said they mistook him for a protester.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the committee disapproves of "any attempts to hinder a journalist who is going about doing his job seemingly within the rules."

In its bid to win the Olympics, China promised to loosen some aspects of its autocratic rule, including allowing the media to report freely and unblocking restricted Web sites for journalists.

It set up three protest parks, all well away from Olympic venues, in a gesture toward greater free speech.

But activists charge that the protest zones designated by Beijing organizers were set up as a way to catch dissidents _ not let them speak out. Would-be protesters must apply for permission in advance and at least one person who applied to hold a demonstration in an approved park was detained by police.

A week into the Beijing games, there has been no sign of demonstrations at the parks.

Sporadic flare-ups in other parts of the city suggest the absence of demonstrations is not for lack of dissent.

Beijing organizing committee vice president Wang Wei on Thursday suggested critics were nitpicking. He called the protest parks "one step further for China to open up."

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Associated Press writers Gillian Wong, Stephen Wade and Rohan Sullivan in Beijing contributed to this report.