Two women yesterday morning attempted to hang a banner from the Acropolis in Athens in protest at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, but were detained by Greek police.
The women, 18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang and 22-year-old exiled Hong Konger Joey Siu (邵嵐), both US citizens, are members of the “No Beijing 2022” campaign, a statement from the New York-based organization Students for a Free Tibet said.
They, and a third person, entered the archeological site as paying customers, and then Zoksang and Siu climbed some scaffolding, from which they attempted to unfurl the banner.
A security officer rushed to them and took the banner away. The two women remained on the scaffolding and deployed a Tibetan flag and a smaller banner proclaiming: “Free Hong Kong Revolution.”
They also chanted slogans including “Free Tibet,” “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “No freedom, no Games.” Police arrived and detained the protesters.
The incident, which lasted about 10 minutes, was made hours before a dress rehearsal in Olympia — the site of the ancient Olympics — of the torch-lighting ceremony for the Games set for today.
“Now it is time for the international community, and all people of conscience, to take a stand and boycott Beijing 2022; anything less would be a clear endorsement of China’s genocidal regime,” Zoksang was quoted as saying in the statement.
“The IOC [International Olympic Committee] is sending the world a message that it is OK to turn a blind eye to genocide and crimes against humanity in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkestan and Southern Mongolia,” Siu added.
Beijing is to be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games when it stages the Feb. 4-20 event, but, as was the case with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, protests and calls for boycotts over the country’s human rights record have marred the run-up.
Rights groups and US lawmakers have called on the IOC to postpone the Games and relocate the event unless China ends what the US deems ongoing genocide against Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups.
Chinese authorities have been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around 1 million Uighurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
China denies wrongdoing, saying it has set up vocational training centers to combat extremism.
Yesterday’s dress rehearsal at the ancient stadium of Olympia was hampered by brief spells of rain and heavy clouds, with the torch not being lit by the sun’s rays through a parabolic mirror.
Instead, a backup flame from previous rehearsals was used by an actress playing the high priestess.
More rain is expected today, with human rights advocates pledging more actions until tomorrow’s flame handover to Chinese Games organizers in Athens.
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