Tibetan, Hong Kong activists detained by Greek police after Acropolis Olympics protest

Rights groups and exiled activists say Beijing should be stripped of the right to host the 2022 Winter Games, citing human rights abuses of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Mongolians and Hongkongers, among others.

Tibetan, Hong Kong activists detained by Greek police after Acropolis Olympics protest

Greek police detained, then released, a Tibetan and a Hong Kong activist campaigning for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on human rights grounds over the weekend, prompting concerns over collaboration between the Chinese and Greek authorities.

Police in Athens detained 18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang and 22-year-old Hong Kong activist in exile, Joey Siu, after they took part in a protest at the Acropolis ahead of an Olympic torch handover ceremony to the Beijing 2022 Committee.

“At 9:30 am, the activists waved the Tibetan flag and Hong Kong’s revolution flag atop the historical monument, chanting “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “Free Tibet” as Greek authorities promptly confiscated their flag,” the U.S.-based rights group Students for a Free Tibet said in a statement on its website.

“Within minutes, at least two dozen police arrived at the scene. The student activists were detained by the Greek police and taken away without a formal arrest at this time,” it said.

It said the pair, both of whom are U.S. citizens, were taking part in the “No Beijing 2022” campaign that includes Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hongkongers, Taiwanese and Mongolian activists, as well as Chinese activists.

They are calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to strip Beijing of the Games, citing “egregious human rights abuses by China including a genocide of the Uyghur people, the brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet, and the severe and worsening crackdown against freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.”

Tsela Zoksang said the awarding of the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing was an endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP)’s “extreme and brutal human rights abuses.”

Joey Siu said that taking part in the same protest in Hong Kong would likely lead to a lengthy jail term.

“By awarding the Chinese government the honor of hosting an Olympic Games yet again, the IOC 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 [a short-lived, pre-World War II state used to refer to the Uyghur homeland], and Southern Mongolia [the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia],” she said. “We must stand together to oppose Beijing 2022.”

Brian Leung, known as the anti-extradition protester who unmasked during an occupation of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) on July 1, 2019, said the incident was a “perfect illustration of China’s global authoritarian reach.”

Greece signed a series of investment deals and an extradition treaty with China in 2019, that was praised by CCP general secretary Xi Jinping at the time as a “model” for Sino-EU relations, Leung said via his Twitter account.

“Xi also described China’s investment project in Port Piraeus — where COSCO Shipping, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, obtained majority stake in the port — as the “the head of the dragon” in his grand Belt and Road Initiative,” Leung wrote.

“It is unacceptable that Greek authorities help Beijing whitewash dissent, arrest activists and manufacture false peace,” Leung wrote. “The mere fact that Greece might lose investment under the shadow of China’s threat can compel it to do the dirty work for Beijing.”

Exiled Hong Kong activist Frances Hui said the protest had happened because the IOC has so far turned a deaf ear to concerns over China’s human rights abuses.

“It was IOC’s long-time disregard for our demands and sufferings that has led us to decide to use such kind of protest action to make sure the IOC and the world hear us,” Hui said via Twitter.

The U.K.-based rights group Hong Kong Watch said the activists had been released in a tweet on Monday.

“We are pleased to learn that Joey Siu and Tsela have been released and pass on our appreciation to all of the individuals and organisations that have raised their case in the last 24 hours,” the group said.

Earlier, it said it was “deeply concerned” at the arrest of Siu, who works for the group as a policy adviser.

“We call on the Greek authorities to resist any pressure from the Chinese Government to extradite these activists, to release Joey Siu and the Tibetan activist Tsela Zoksang as a matter of urgency, and to allow them to return to the United States of America,” it said.

Exiled former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui tweeted that it was unclear whether the pair were arrested at China’s request.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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