ATHENS, 19 October — Just hours before the Olympic Torch handover at the Acropolis, rights groups – International Tibet Network, World Uyghur Congress, and Students for a Free Tibet – held an in-person and live-streamed press conference in Athens, Greece.  Activists Pema Doma (Students for a Free Tibet), Zumretay Arkin (World Uyghur Congress), and Mandie McKeown (International Tibet Network) briefed at least 20 international media outlets. Following the briefing two Tibetans present at the conference were detained by Greek police.
Tibetan rights activist, Pema Doma, gave an update concerning the three protesters arrested on the 18th after their disruption of the Torch Ceremony in Olympia . She said that they remain detained in Pyrgos and their charges are not yet clear at this time.
Zumretay Arkin and Pema Doma both urged governments and the international community to take a stand against China’s widespread repression across East Turkestan, Tibet, Hong Kong and all countries and regions under Chinese Communist Party rule, and to boycott Beijing 2022 or risk being complicit in the “Genocide Games.”
Immediately after leaving the press conference, two Tibetan activists, Tsering Gonpa and Tenzin Yangzom were stopped and detained by Greek police as they attempted to make their way back to their hotel. Both Tsering Gonpa (Tibetan-Swiss) and Tenzin Yangzom (Tibetan-American) had been previously detained on 18 October despite not engaging in any protest nor breaking any local or international laws.
At the close of the press conference Pema Doma, Zumretay Arkin, Mandie McKeown, and one other activist, remained at the venue for security reasons. During this time the group were visited by two men (who later identified themselves as Chinese) who wandered into the private press conference room and took photographs of the activists. When confronted the two men did not respond to questions about why they were there or why they were recording the group.
Two other men of Greek descent also entered the private room as well as searching the entire floor of the venue. Again, they refused to answer any questions about who they were or what they were looking for. They did enquire as to the whereabouts of Zumretay Arkin – who had left the room at the time.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Olympic Torch Ceremony at the Acropolis, Tsering Gonpa and Tenzin Yangzom were released from police custody after nearly 4 hours. They were not charged with a crime nor given a reason for their detention. They also reported seeing a number of individuals who appeared to be of Asian ethnicity in police custody who had no links to the No Beijing 2022 campaign nor any understanding as to why they had been detained.
Tenzin Yangzom, Grassroots Director at Students for a Free Tibet, said:
“It is outrageous that I was detained by Greek police for the second time in twenty four hours. I came to Greece to help raise awareness about human rights violations in Tibet and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) human rights abuses; I did not engage in any protests nor break any Greek laws and my detention exemplifies how easily fundamental freedoms are eroded when the Chinese Communist Party is in town.”
Mandie McKeown, Executive Director of International Tibet Network, said:
“As Thomas Bach and the Olympic Committee once again attempt to gloss over Beijing 2022 hosts’ egregious human rights abuses – the genocide of the Uyghur people and the brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet – we are buoyed to see the extent of the coverage of the widespread concern that the forthcoming Winter Games cannot simply go ahead as usual and that they must be cancelled, moved, or boycotted.”
Zumretay Arkin, Program and Advocacy Manager at World Uyghur Congress, said:
“Today’s press conference was held in a completely open, legal, and transparent way and yet we felt pressure and intimidation by both Greek authorities who were in touch with the venue about our plans, and individuals who were monitoring us and who we believe were Chinese agents. It is absolutely unacceptable that this kind of intimidation is allowed to take place in a free and democratic country and it only reinforces our argument that China should not be allowed to host the Winter Olympics of 2022. We may be safe now, but millions of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians, Chinese and Hong Kongers are being persecuted and we demand a boycott of Beijing 2022.”
For additional updates, visual requests, and interviews:
Jacob Kessler: [email protected], +1 516-776-6472 (Signal & WhatsApp)
Mandie McKeown: [email protected], +44 7748 158618
NOTES TO THE EDITORS:
- The live broadcast can be viewed at https://youtu.be/dpsi2-VbWUQ. The footage can be used by media outlets.
- https://studentsforafreetibet.org/breaking-tibet-activists-arrested-after-disrupting-olym pic-torch-lighting-ceremony-others-detained-outside-at-direction-of-chinese-governm ent-officials/