Saturday, April 28, 2007

Four Americans Reported Held by China for Tibet Protest

Reported by the Associated Press

Beijing, China; April 26, 2007 -- Four American protesters were reported detained on Mount Everest as they called for independence for Tibet and protested against the Beijing Olympics.

The protest was organized by Students for a Free Tibet, which said the four were taken away Wednesday from a base camp on the Tibetan side of the mountain, after they held up and filmed a banner that read, "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008."

"One World, One Dream" is the slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Everest straddles the border between China's Tibet region and Nepal."We've taken note of the relevant reports. China is making a thorough investigation and will properly handle the case," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference.

"Any foreign citizen coming to China has the obligation to abide by Chinese laws," Liu said. "They shall not engage in activities concerning the sovereignty and unity of China."

The group said it planned the protest on Mount Everest because the route for the 2008 Olympic torch relay was set to be announced in Beijing on Thursday. Chinese officials have said they want to take it to the top of the world's tallest mountain.

The group's executive director, Lhadon Tethong, said in an e-mail that she had not heard from the four on Thursday. She identified them as Kirsten Westby of Boulder, Colorado; Shannon Service and Laurel Mac Sutherlin of San Francisco; and Tenzin Dorjee of New York.

Westby, speaking briefly with the Associated Press briefly by cell phone Wednesday, said they had been treated well. Later, the calls would not go through. China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.

Taking the Olympic torch to the top of the 29,035-foot Mount Everest is seen by some as a way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet.