Chinese dissidents protest Britain's treatment of activist

AP News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2015 7:21 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Veteran Chinese pro-democracy campaigners have protested Britain's treatment of an activist detained during Chinese President Xi Jinping's pageant-filled visit to the country, saying London was putting economic ties over rights concerns.

Shao Jiang was arrested in London on Wednesday after scaling barriers and standing in front of Xi's motorcade holding placards. His home was searched and computer equipment taken away.

Veteran dissidents Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi said in a statement Saturday that Britain appeared to have jettisoned human rights concerns in favor of securing business deals.

"Britain is sadly lending legitimacy to a regime with no rule of law, no freedom of speech, and with geopolitical ambitions that threaten the security of its neighboring nations — and perhaps the world," the statement said.

"Trade takes priority over basic human rights, and exiled protesters with legitimate grievances with the Beijing government are now no longer safe even the democracies that gave them refuge," it said, describing Britain's actions as "shameful."

Wang and Kaixi were top student leaders of the 1989 pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square that was brutally suppressed by China's army. Like Shao, also a veteran of the movement, they now live in exile.

Speaking to Britain's The Independent newspaper, Shao said he was surprised by the extent of the actions taken by police, but hoped his arrest would raise awareness of human rights in China.

"I was protesting peacefully," the Independent quoted him as saying. "And when I was arrested I couldn't believe that this country was no longer protecting freedom of expression. It's just like China now."

Xi's state visit sparked a series of protests over China's human rights record and other issues. Two Tibetan activists, Sonam Choden and Jamphel Lhamo, were also arrested for attempting to unfurl Tibetan flags as Xi's motorcade passed.

Chinese state media provided blanket coverage of Xi's visit, with an emphasis on the ostentatious ceremonies laid on for Xi and the respect their country's leader commanded.

However, reports on the visit by international broadcasters such as CNN and the BBC were blacked out in China for several minutes at a time, apparently because Chinese censors objected to their reporting on human rights and other sensitive issues.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed that three people were arrested "to prevent a breach of the peace" and on suspicion of conspiracy to commit threatening behavior. They were later released on bail and have not been charged.

Lucy D'Orsi, commander of the police operation for the state visit, said in a statement that police had worked "tirelessly" to facilitate peaceful protests, but that tight security was needed to ensure the safety of Xi and his wife, as well as the British royal family and prime minister.

"The assertion that political manipulation of the command team or, indeed, the broader Metropolitan Police took place is wrong and doesn't reflect the facts," D'Orsi said.

Xi, who also heads China's Communist Party, which brooks no opposition, returned to China on Friday after a carefully orchestrated visit that included a stay at Buckingham Palace and an address to Parliament.

Organized crowds waving Chinese flags greeted Xi throughout, outnumbering pro-Tibet and human rights protesters concerned about the lavish welcome accorded to Xi.

The two countries signed more than $46 billion in economic agreements during the trip.

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Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.