Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Olympic Protests: Getting Warmed Up
Foreign activists unfurled pro-Tibet banners at a key Olympics venue Wednesday and spoke out against China's rights record in Tiananmen Square, in the first attempts to use the spotlight of the games to raise other issues.
One athlete, U.S. swim star Amanda Beard, also made a public political gesture, on behalf of animal rights.
All of the groups tangled with Chinese authorities, who are determined to make sure the communist government's plan for the Beijing Games to be an international showcase for the country goes off without a hitch.
Two men from Students for a Free Tibet each climbed a light pole in front of the so-called Bird's Nest and put up the banners at dawn, said Lhadon Tethong, the New York-based group's executive director. The other two — a man and a woman — provided support from the base of the poles, she said.
Later Wednesday, three Americans spent almost an hour in the iconic Tiananmen Square criticizing Beijing's handling of issues ranging from forced abortions to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement to pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.
"It was important for us that there be a clear voice speaking out against the Chinese government's abuse of human rights," Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, said in a telephone interview.
The trio also set up a banner in the square that said "Christ is King" and knelt and prayed. Brandi Swindell, national director of the activist group Generation Life, also put out seven roses in memory of those who died in the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests on and near the square in 1989.