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China urged to free Americans held for Tibet protests

August 25, 2008

August 24, 2008

BEIJING, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The United States has pressed for the
immediate release of eight Americans detained in Beijing for staging
pro-free Tibet protests during the Beijing Olympics.

Two were detained on Thursday after hanging a "Free Tibet" banner
near an Olympic venue and, according to Chinese authorities, will be
released next Sunday, the U.S. Embassy said in an e-mail received on Sunday.

Six members of the group Free Tibet Reporters were detained in the
early hours of Aug. 20 and will be freed on Aug. 30.

"We are disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the
Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness," the Embassy
statement said.

"We encourage the government of China to demonstrate respect for
human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of
religion, of all people during the Olympic Games and beyond."

The statement said this was the first time during the period of the
Olympic Games that a detention lasted beyond one day.

"We are continuing to raise our concerns at senior levels of the
Chinese government and to follow their cases closely," the statement said.

Calls for Tibetan independence from China were at the heart of
demonstrations around the world during the Beijing Games
international torch relay and several small protests were held in
Beijing prior to and during the Games.

The protests were triggered by China's crackdown on rioting in and
around the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in the spring. (Reporting by
Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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