So the gloves have come off. No one’s even pretending that the Beijing Torch has anything to do with Olympic values of “respect for fundamental universal ethical principles.” Days before the Olympic Torch was due in Hong Kong, security minister Ambrose Lee said that pro-Tibet protestors would be barred from entering the city. Barred. Anyone who may potentially say or do something contrary to the Chinese government’s official line wasn’t to even step foot in Hong Kong.
Does the Olympic Charter have a special clause for totalitarian dictatorships to deny basic universal human rights like freedom of speech and movement? And did the Chinese government really think that that warning would stop us from spreading our message?
On Monday, Kate Woznow from SFT headquarters in New York, Matt Whitticase from Free Tibet Campaign in UK and I boarded flights to Hong Kong. As soon as I landed, I was pulled aside for ‘further inspection.’ Let’s just say that I knew I’d hit a kink when the customs inspector’s eyes bulged out of his sockets and he led out a deep sigh after scanning my passport.
Thus began my five and a half hour detention and intermittent questioning. They asked me why I was there, where I was staying, what sights I planned to see. But the most telling question was “Are you Buddhist?” The agent pointed at my passport and said that my name seemed Buddhist. I’m not sure it would’ve helped if my name was Muslim, but I told her I was Canadian – entitled to enter Hong Kong just like thousands of other foreigners.
They took the batteries of our cell phones and laptops so we couldn’t record anything or contact people. They took away our documents so we couldn’t leave until they let us. I met one unfortunate man from Botswana in the ‘reject’ waiting room who’d been there for a week. They didn’t keep us informed about what was happening, and refused to tell us why we were being denied entry.
Eventually, four people escorted me to the Cathay Pacific gate. There they gave me my passport, ticket and cell phone batteries just before I walked into the plane and headed home.
Four and a half months before the Olympics begin, the Chinese government reacted with overwhelming violent force against Tibetans across Tibet, detained some 5,715 political prisoners, gunned down hundreds of defenseless Tibetans, shuttled hundreds of monks away to unknown locations, starved entire monasteries, and began mandatory ‘education campaigns’ on Tibetans.
Now they are arrogant enough to protest when the rest of the world shows solidarity for the Tibetan people?
Hong Kong is/was the last bastion of freedom in China. Chinese dissidents work openly in Hong Kong for democracy and human rights because when China took control of the island, they had guaranteed political freedoms and the right to protest in Hong Kong.
The Chinese regime has done nothing if not regress since being awarded the Olympics. Our experience in Hong Kong is a sad example of this and I am especially sorry for all the Chinese brothers and sisters who depend on the freedoms there for their own country’s sake.
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