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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Police treatment of Tibet protesters 'unjustified'

November 22, 2007

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Police actions against protesters during the visit of Chinese 
President Jiang Zemin eight years ago were unjustified says the 
Police Complaints Authority.

But there was no evidence of police acting under political direction, 
a report of the investigation released today by the head of the 
authority, Justice Lowell Goddard, found.

Complaints arose from two incidents in Wellington on September 14, 
1999 involving police and protesters demonstrating against Chinese 
rule of Tibet.

The first incident involved two women, one with a two-year-old child, 
who had positioned themselves on a traffic island along the route the 
president's motorcade would take.

"The women had been sitting on the traffic island for about a minute 
when three police officers walked over to them and asked if they were 
planning to wave their flags or just taking a rest," the report said.

The women said they planned on waving their flags and were told they 
could not protest there, or anywhere in the immediate vicinity.

"When the president's motorcade approached...the women got to their 
feet and reached for their flags, but the three police officers stood 
in front of them and on top of their flags.

"The women shouted `Free Tibet' but their right to peacefully protest 
as they had wished had been arbitrarily curtailed," the report said.

The second incident happened close to the then Park Royal Hotel, 
where the president was staying.

About 20 protesters, some with megaphones, had gathered at the corner 
of Featherston and Grey streets.

In anticipation of protest action police had erected a heavy mesh 
barricade at the intersection.

Protesters were directed by police to stand behind the barricade.

"The protest was peaceful," the report said.

One of the protesters addressed the group using a megaphone and some 
were chanting "talk Tibet".

"It appears however that Chinese officials at the hotel became 
seriously concerned that the noise from the protest might be heard 
from within the hotel," the report said.

Without warning 15 to 20 police officers moved in between the 
protesters and the barricade.

"Using a megaphone, police officers advised the protesters they were 
in a road closure area and asked them to move.

"Understandably the protesters were reluctant.

"Police personnel then moved the protesters along using a skirmish 
line of some six police men and women."

The protesters were moved about 100 metres along Featherston Street 
where they were out of sound and sight of the hotel.

Although some complained of excessive force being used by police, the 
report said there was no evidence of that on videotapes of the 
incident and police officers denied the use of such force.

Five of the protesters were arrested, four for obstruction and one 
for a minor assault on police.

The report found that the police explanation, that the road had been 
closed, was without legal foundation, as was a suggestion the 
protesters were causing an obstruction.

The report said many complainants suggested the police may have been 
subject to political direction to ensure the president did not see or 
hear protesters during his visit to New Zealand.

But it said it was clear that no political directive was give to the 

However, it was clear Chinese officials meeting the operational 
commander for Wellington before the visit, had been at pains to 
impress upon him their wish that the president neither see nor hear 

"The operational commander told the authority that although he 
advised the Chinese officials that he would take what steps he 
lawfully could to limit the president's exposure to protests, he had 
also made it clear that he could not give any guarantees and that 
protest was permitted in New Zealand so long as it was orderly and 

The police operational order noted the president's sensitivity to 
both visible and audible protest and recorded that police would "make 
every effort to minimise the impact of protest ..."

"That undertaking, whilst ostensibly innocuous, carried with it the 
obvious and inherent risk of curbing or inhibiting the right of 
protesters to carry out a lawful and peaceful protest," the report said.

Justice Goddard said in the report that it was not appropriate to 
hold any individual officer responsible for the acknowedged breaches 
of the protesters' rights.

"What is absolutely clear however is that, in the circumstances, the 
lawful rights of the protesters should have been preserved."

Justice Goddard said the report had awaited amendments to the New 
Zealand Police General Instruction relating to demonstrations and a 
related updated of the New Zealand Police Manual of Best Practice 
module for VIP Security Planning and Operations before it was issued.

The organiser of the protests was reported today as saying he was 
happy with authority's report.

Friends of Tibet spokesman Thuten Kesang said police must remember 
protesters are allowed to be seen by their targets.

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