Former Boston Indymedia journalist and media activist Bryan Conley, founder of grassroots media videoblog Alive in Baghdad, is one of six US citizens detained in China for covering actions of Students for a Free Tibet during the Olympics. The other five pro-Tibet activists are Jeffrey Rae, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, Tom Grant, and James Powderly. On Aug. 21, the Chinese government handed them and four other European activists a 10-day detention sentence.
Activists in Beijing have been organizing actions since the games started, to draw attention on the Tibetan independence movement. The actions have included unfurling banners on public places and providing space for Tibetans to speak out. But China’s crackdown on Tibetans and activists alike has been relentless.
For example, on August 19, five activists posted a banner spelling out “Free Tibet” in English and Chinese in bright blue LED “throwie” lights in Beijing’s Olympic Park. All five—Amy Johnson, 33, Sam Corbin, 24, Liza Smith, 31, Jacob Blumenfeld, 26, and Lauren Valle, 21—were arrested.
In an amazing set of coordinated actions, people from Tibet, Canada, Germany, England, and the US, among other countries, have continued to bring Tibet to light during these games. So far most foreigners caught doing activism during the Olympic games were immediately deported from China. The detention sentence of these people is a new development in the government’s control tactics.
“The Chinese government is desperate to turn the world’s attention away from its abuses in Tibet as the Olympics take place, but the creativity and determination of Tibetans and their supporters has once again ensured that Tibetan voices are heard and seen in Beijing despite the massive security clampdown,” said Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet.
Tibetans themselves have it much harder. According to a Free Tibet 2008 press release, over one thousand Tibetan monks from the three main monasteries around Lhasa were imprisoned in jails and detention centers one month before the Olympics started. Lhasa itself was under virtual martial law to parade the Olympic torch through streets lined with thousands of Chinese troops.
According to Amnesty International, one of many human rights organizations whose web sites have been censored in China right before the Olympics, “Those who have made connections between human rights and the Olympics have been specifically targeted in the pre-Olympics ‘clean up’. The police have also used control, surveillance and arbitrary detention against members of activists’ families, in an apparent attempt to apply more pressure.”
In an interview with Free Tibet 2008 TV, Eowyn Reike said that the kind of grassroots journalism that her husband, Brian Conley, provides is critical “to provide documentation of struggles that people who would otherwise would not be able to get the word out about their oppression.” In 2005, Conley began the Alive in Baghdad project which provides Iraqis with cameras to help them produce a weekly news program distributed via RSS.
Eowyn has not been able to communicate with her husband since his sentencing.
From Boston Indymedia, Aug. 22
See our last post on China and Tibet.