Manali boy raises Tibet's banner of revolt at Everest
Apr 28, 2007 - 3:57:43 PM
Kathmandu, April 28 - A 27-year-old born and brought up in India's Manali town became the first known exiled Tibetan to return to Tibet to raise the banner of revolt against China and the International Olympic Committee's decision to allow Beijing to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
Tenzin Dorjee, who holds an American citizenship and lives in New York, created an international splash after he and three fellow Americans, including two women, sang the Tibetan national anthem and raised a banner at the Everest base camp asking for a free Tibet.
Dorjee and fellow protesters Kirsten Westby, Laurel MacSutherlin and Shannon Service were arrested by Chinese security personnel at a height of over 5,200 m Wednesday morning and kept imprisoned for 55 hours without being allowed food, water and warm clothing.
'We were not allowed to sleep,' said Service, describing the ordeal here Saturday. 'After every hour or so, they would beam strong lights on our faces and interrogate us. The questions were always the same. Who did we come in contact with after we arrived in Tibet? Who was our driver? Where did we get our food?
'It was obvious they were trying to locate the Tibetans inside Tibet who had come in contact with us so that they could be arrested and tortured.'
The protest was organised under the banner of Students for a Free Tibet, a network of young people campaigning for the independence of the Buddhist kingdom China invaded and annexed in 1949.
It was especially targeted against the Olympic torch march that China is planning to take to Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world at 8,848 m.
'By ignoring the human rights abuses in China and giving it the privilege to host the Olympic Games 2008, the IOC has become tainted,' said Dorjee.
'Our banner was a takeoff on the Olympic motto that says 'One World, One Dream'. It said: 'One world, One dream: Free Tibet'.
'We protest against the proposed march to Mt Everest, that lies in Tibet, without the permission of the Tibetan people.'
Within 15 minutes of their protest, the four were spotted by the Chinese security guards at the base camp and arrested. A fifth, Jeff Friesen, however, managed to escape and give the videotapes he had made of the incident to other people who subsequently smuggled them out of China.
A massive manhunt started for Friesen and on Thursday, he was caught in a nearby town.
However, since the news of the arrests had already spread outside, Beijing, apparently fearing negative publicity before the Games and also keeping in mind that all the five were American citizens, brought them to the Nepal border Friday and 'expelled' them.
Once safe in Kathmandu, the five spoke about their ordeal Saturday.
'What happened to us was frightening and traumatic,' said Service. 'Yet it was just the tip of the iceberg. It made us realise what happens to the Chinese or Tibetans who are arrested.'
Before they were released, the five were made to sign a paper that said they had threatened the state security of China and were apologising for their misconduct.
'To make us appear like dangerous reactionaries and to foster the impression in China that we were treated well, just before they released us, they took us to an opulent restaurant,' Service said.
'We had fruit bows and silver cutlery placed before us and urged to eat. All this while, the Chinese media went on taking our photographs.'
Beijing meanwhile had lodged an official complaint with the US over the protest, demanding that Washington prevent such incidents in future.
But Service said the protests had just begun and would 'cascade' as the Games drew closer.
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