Five members of the Students for a Free Tibet group were arrested in Beijing on Friday after unfurling a large banner that read “Free Tibet” over an Olympic billboard.
At 5:45a.m. Beijing time, two foreign human rights activists, assisted by three others, rappelled down the side of a large Olympic billboard at the new headquarters of China Central TV (CCTV) station unrolling a 375-square-foot (115-square-meter) banner.
After 30 minutes the five were removed and arrested by security officials. In a fax replying to questions about the protesters, the Beijing Public Security Bureau said the five had “engaged in activities that violated Chinese law” and were ordered by police to leave the country.
The two climbers were Nicole Rycroft, 41, born and raised in Sydney, Australia and currently living in Canada; and Philip Kirk, 24, a British citizen from Hertfordshire, UK. They were supported by Americans Bianca Bockman, 27, from Hoboken, New Jersey, Sam Maron, 22, from Ossining, New York, and Kelly Osborne, 39, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.
Using her cell phone Nicole Rycroft recorded a message while in the back of the police van saying the reason for the protest was to send a clear message to the Chinese Communist leadership (CCP) that it “takes more than economic might to be a world leader.”
“There’s a moral code and there’s a need for justice … Their (the CCP’s) current regime in Tibet is anything but just … The situation in Tibet is terrible and has been for the last 50 years.”
Although she didn’t see herself participating in the Olympics by protesting, she said it was very meaningful for her, “Much more meaningful in some ways. The Olympics is a place for the pursuit of excellence and it’s also a place where countries and people come together in peace.”
Ms Rycroft who trained as a lightweight rower in the 1990’s said the ‘Games of Peace’ would be hollow words if China’s many human rights issues continue. She said the Olympics are about peace and understanding and hoped athletes would speak out even though they’re focussed on their performances right now.
“We need to be making a stand for the people in Tibet who, just in recent months even, have been suffering some of the worst human rights abuses that we could imagine.”
Competing at the Olympics and winning a gold medal is an amazing achievement in an athletic career but, she says, taking a stand and speaking out for human rights in Tibet would “really mark an Olympian in history.”
“There’s a place for justice and humanity in sport.”