RAN Activists Sentenced to Jail Time for Tibet Protest in China

posted by scott parkin

UPDATE: All but two of the ten detained have been put on a plane to the United States. Florian Norbu Gyanatshang, 30, of Stuttgart, Germany and Mandie McKeown, 41, of Bristol, United Kingdom are still in custody. Please continue to contact U.S. and Chinese officials about these last two human rights activists in a Chinese jail.

Some of you may have been following the ongoing direct actions around the 2008 Beijing Olympics that our friends and allies with Students for a Free Tibet have been doing in China and around the world.

Earlier this year, during the Olympic Torch run I was part of a banner hang on the Golden Gate Bridge as the torch came to San Francisco. About two weeks ago, RAN Campaigner Bria Morgan was part of an action at the SF Chinese embassy that went bad as she was attacked by Chinese Embassy police and the climber had her rope cut and fell from the top of the building.

Many of us at RAN do a lot of solidarity work with allies working on various issues.

In China, 45 activists have been detained and deported for various actions during the Olympics. Many RAN activists and friends have been part of these actions and have risked much in solidarity with the Tibetan people.

Now the Chinese have escalated by sentencing ten activists to jail time for Pro-Tibet activities in Beijing during the Olympics. Included in this group are two long time RAN activists John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells.

I’ve worked with both on the No Coal Finance campaign against Citi and Bank of America, and count them both as good friends.

PLEASE take time to contact the Chinese Foreign Ministry and U.S. officials to demand their immediate release.

You can do it by following this link- http://beijing6.org/

Solidarity, Scott


August 24, 2008

Ten Foreign Tibet Supporters Remain Jailed in China on Eve of Olympics Closing
SFT Calls for Immediate Release of all Peaceful Dissenters

***Photos and bios available at http://freetibet2008.org/globalactions/beijing10


As the 2008 Olympics come to a close, and the Chinese government hails the Games as a triumph for China, ten foreign Tibet supporters, including a Tibetan, an internationally renowned artist, and award-winning bloggers and documentary filmmakers, remain in jail in Beijing – most of them for independently reporting on peaceful protests. In the lead up to and during the Olympic Games, hundreds of Chinese have been placed under house arrest, have disappeared or suffer in re-education-through-labor camps since being swept up in a pre-Olympic crackdown on human rights advocates and others Beijing considers ‘undesirables.’ At the same time, thousands of Tibetans remain missing or are detained in an ongoing brutal clampdown on protests for freedom and human rights in Tibet.

Eight Americans, one Briton and one Tibetan-German are being held in detention for ten days. Only six of them have been given an official sentence, and they are due to be deported on August 30th. The remaining four have not been officially charged. These ten individuals (artists, activists and citizen journalists) were in Beijing to amplify Tibetan voices calling for freedom and human rights and the right of all people to freedom of expression. They are no more guilty of a crime than Tibetans or Chinese who speak out for justice. For the Chinese authorities to sentence them at all shows the government’s insecurity and intolerance of even the most peaceful challenges to its authoritarian control.

Students for a Free Tibet categorically rejects the validity of these detentions, as well as the notion that the expression or documentation of a person’s views is a punishable offense. We demand the immediate release of Brian Conley, Jeffrey Rae, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, Tom Grant, James Powderly, Jeremy Wells, John Watterberg, Florian Norbu Gyanatshang and Mandie McKeown.

While we recognize that ten days in jail pales in comparison to the consequences faced by Tibetans, Chinese dissidents and others living under Chinese government rule who dare to speak out, we find the Chinese authorities’ response to the peaceful actions of these individuals to be reprehensible and a violation of their fundamental rights. We appeal to the American, British and German governments to take action to secure their immediate and unconditional release.

We further call on the international community, and the International Olympic Committee in particular, to demand that the Chinese authorities immediately release all those people who have been unjustly detained for their political or religious views in China’s Olympic crackdown.


Notes for editors:

1) The four activists detained at 12:05am Beijing time on August 21, 2008 are:
-Jeremy Wells, 38, of New York, USA
-John Watterberg, 30, of New York, USA
-Florian Norbu Gyanatshang, 30, of Stuttgart, Germany
-Mandie McKeown, 41, of Bristol, United Kingdom

The four were swarmed at just past midnight by dozens of plainclothes police after a brief protest near the Bird’s Nest stadium. McKeown acted as an observer while Gyanatshang displayed a Tibetan flag and Wells and Watterberg raised their fists in the air in a gesture modeled on the 1968 protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City games. The action took place early Thursday morning shortly after the men’s 200-meter dash final at the Bird’s Nest, the event at which Carlos and Smith held their historic protest. See http://freetibet2008.org/globalactions/tibetanflag/

2) The six Americans detained on August 19th are:
-James Powderly, 32, New York, USA
-Brian Conley, 28, Philadelphia, USA
-Jeffrey Rae, 28, New York, USA
-Jeffrey Goldin, 40, New York, USA
-Michael Liss, 35, New York, USA
-Tom Grant, 39, New York, USA

Powderly, a high-tech graffiti artist, was planning a pro-Tibet laser art exhibition in Beijing. The five others – photographers, videographers, writers and bloggers – have been documenting and supporting pro-Tibet demonstrations in Beijing.
See http://freetibet2008.org/globalactions/citizenjournalists/

3) Forty-five activists from the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Tibet, Australia, and Japan, including three Tibetans with foreign passports, have been detained and deported for participating in, observing or supporting pro-Tibet protests in Beijing since August 6th.