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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China Deports 28 Members of Students for a Free Tibet for Staging Protests in Beijing

August 14, 2008

Democracy Now
August 12, 2008

China Deports 28 Members of Students for a Free Tibet for Staging
Protests in Beijing

Guests:
* John Hocevar, founder of Students for a Free Tibet
* Noel Hidalgo, activist and self-described "citizen journalist." He
goes the nickname "noneck." He used his cell phone to film most of
the footage of the protests shown across the world.

We speak to John Hocevar, founder of Students for a Free Tibet, and
the citizen journalist Noel Hidalgo, aka noneck, both of whom were
just deported by China. Hidalgo used his cell phone to film most of
the footage of the protests shown across the world.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the Olympics in China. As sports fans
around the world keep their eyes on the [medal] tally in Beijing,
another numerical feat continues to grow almost daily. Members of the
group Students for a Free Tibet say twenty-eight of their activists
have now been deported or detained since the Games opened last week.

The students have taken part in several protests. Last Wednesday, a
Free Tibet banner was briefly draped near the Olympic Stadium. Two
days later, three were arrested for waving the Tibetan flag and
recreating the Black Power salute just before the opening ceremonies.
On Saturday, protesters were arrested both at the Olympic Stadium and
at Tiananmen Square, where five people draped themselves in Tibetan
flags and held a symbolic die-in. On Sunday, five were arrested after
unfurling a banner reading "Tibetans are dying for freedom."

I'm joined now by two activists who have just returned to the United
States after being deported from China. John Hocevar is founder of
Students for a Free Tibet, and Noel Hidalgo is an activist and
self-described "citizen journalist." He goes by the nickname
"noneck." He used his cell phone to film most of the footage of the
protests shown across the world. John Hocevar and Noel Hidalgo join
us here in the firehouse studio.

John, can you talk about what you were involved in in China, how you
got there and what protests you were part of?

JOHN HOCEVAR: Sure. Well, we arrived just on a normal tourist visa.
We were there because China has been trying to use the Olympics to
legitimize the occupation of Tibet and to whitewash the human rights
record, and we felt it was important to do what we could to make sure
that the truth got out.

AMY GOODMAN: So what did you do?

JOHN HOCEVAR: Well, we've been organizing protests almost every day
over the past week in Beijing, starting with the banner hang that you
saw right in front of the famous Bird's Nest, National Stadium.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what this banner hang was.

JOHN HOCEVAR: Well, so we had people climb these two very large polls
right across from the Bird's Nest, and they read in English and
Chinese, "Free Tibet, Tibet will be free," and then, sort of riffing
off the motto a little bit, "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet."

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?

JOHN HOCEVAR: Well, they were able to stay up for a little while,
because once they get off the ground, they can't be grabbed quite so
easily. Finally, the trucks came, and the activists came down of
their own accord and were immediately deported. And that's been the
case with every demonstration over the past week. As soon as law
enforcement was able to get to people, they were taken out pretty quickly.

AMY GOODMAN: What other protests were you involved with?

JOHN HOCEVAR: A couple days later, the ... on Saturday, in Tiananmen
Square, this one, for me, was one of the most powerful that I've been
a part of. There was a die-in right in the heart of Tiananmen Square,
you know, one of the world's most powerful symbols of nonviolent
resistance. And there was a very large crowd of Chinese bystanders
standing around watching. And outside of that, actually, there were
uniformed police that were—had—for whatever reason, were not
intervening. So it went on for close to fifteen minutes before people
were escorted out of the square and, again, deported.

AMY GOODMAN: Noneck, can you talk about your citizen journalism, what
you've been doing and what you have filmed in China?

NOEL HIDALGO: Sure. For the past year, I've traveled around the world
just using the tools at my disposal, like this cell phone. And in
China, I used this software called QIK, Q-I-K, that allowed me to
stream live onto the internet and show these protests as they were
happening in real time to the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about some that you filmed and that others filmed,
got to see.

NOEL HIDALGO: Sure. The footage that you just saw of the banner hang
was filmed by many different people, Chinese and Western journalists
that were there, as well as other tourists that happened to be in the
area. And the amazing part is that it got to the point that any
Westerner would be actually yelled and screamed at and assaulted for
filming any one of these protests, whereas any Chinese individual, it
was OK for them to go ahead and film.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play some of a protest that was captured on a
cell phone. I think we can roughly hear some of this protest. Let's
roll the tape.

PROTESTER: Right now, over 1,000 Tibetans are in jail in Tibet,
preemptively ahead of the Olympics. So we've come here to speak out
about that. We've also come here to shine the Olympic light on the
occupation of Tibet and ongoing human rights abuses by the Chinese
government in Tibet. With the world's attention on China, we ask that
you please, please free Tibet, that the time is now for a free Tibet,
that with the world's attention on China, that we speak out. And as
people of conscience, we've traveled here to do so today.

AMY GOODMAN: Noneck, can you tell us about this? It was captured on a
cell phone?

NOEL HIDALGO: Yeah, it was streamed live to the internet. And just
using this particular phone, this Nokia, allowed me to broadcast
right to the internet. And over 30,000 people have seen this
particular video. And what's most interesting about this particular
protest is that it just not only involved Students for a Free Tibet,
the particular die-in, but I was also able to capture an undercover
security officer assaulting a CBC reporter who had been credentialed.
His passport was pickpocketed right as the protesters were being
taken in to be detained. They were assaulted -- this photographer was
assaulted, and his passport pickpocketed. Eventually, he did get his
passport back, but it showed, the highlight, that the police are—have
been brutal against the fact that Westerners documenting these
particular things are refusing to allow for an open, free media.

AMY GOODMAN: And when did the authorities catch you, deport you? Or
did they stop you each time, at each protest?

NOEL HIDALGO: I was not stopped. I was actually -- I was harassed by
local Chinese every single time. I was told that I was a demon, I was
a devil, for showing China in this particular light, because they saw
me capturing this footage. On the third protest, where the students
unfurled their banner at the ticket office where John and I were both
detained, I just happened to have a high-definition consumer camera,
and I was thrown up against the wall, my arm was twisted behind my
back, and I was subsequently detained for being a Westerner who was
capturing this footage. I wanted to show the rest of the world what
exactly was going on in China.

AMY GOODMAN: Your final time detained before you were deported, where
were you held? Did you get to speak to those who were holding you, John?

JOHN HOCEVAR: They basically commandeered the first available room,
so they took over a ticket office and detained us there, and then
they put us in a police van and brought us to the airport. And we
were interrogated a bit in each of those places.

If I could, I'd like to bring it back to why we were there, really,
and what this was all about. And, you know, for me, as a founder of
Students for a Free Tibet, walking back into the office several—you
know, over a decade later, seeing that the whole office was being
taken over—had been taken over by young Tibetans, the guy who met us
at the airport when we arrived from being deported, his sister was
one of the two women in Amdo who were shot this week. I don't think
many people realize how much Tibetans are really running this
organization now. And how...

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to his sister?

JOHN HOCEVAR: Well, it's an awful story. They're from Amdo province
in Napo, which is really just a couple hundred kilometers from the
epicenter of the earthquake in Sichuan province. And it's a heavily
militarized area now. The number of troops there have gone from 2,000
to 10,000 over the past few months. They're carrying out military
exercises on the grasslands. These are nomadic areas where they're
basically ordering all the Tibetans to come out and watch while they
respond to mock protests with Tibetan flags. So, these two women that
were shot, it sounds like they were just soldiers taking potshots
driving by in a car, and these two women were hit—and not killed, fortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: They were not in Tibet?

JOHN HOCEVAR: They're in Tibet, that's right.

AMY GOODMAN: They were in Tibet, and they were shot.

JOHN HOCEVAR: That's right, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Your deportation, noneck, what happened?

NOEL HIDALGO: Well, you know, once I was physically accosted, I was
thrown into the same room that five other protesters were in, and
pretty much I kept on saying, "I'm just a tourist. I'm here just to
show and to see the Games," and was taken to the hotel and
subsequently deported.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel the US should have participated in the Olympics, John?

JOHN HOCEVAR: I wouldn't have "we weren't calling for a boycott of
the Games, but we certainly didn't feel that it was appropriate for
President Bush to go and attend the opening ceremonies and smile and
clap without holding the Chinese government accountable for their
human rights record and to press them for a resolution on Tibet.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, John
Hocevar, founder of Students for a Free Tibet, and Noel Hidalgo,
citizen journalist from here in New York, both deported for their
pro-Tibet activities in China.

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