MOSCOW -- Russian riot police broke up a protest of
Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympics, detaining at least six
demonstrators and two journalists Wednesday minutes after the
The swift crackdown sparked questions by reporters to Francois
Carrard, director-general of the International Olympic Committee,
whose executive commission was meeting in Moscow.
The full IOC is to vote on Friday in Moscow on who holds the
2008 Games. Beijing is the leading contender among five candidates,
but opponents say China should not get the games because of its
intolerance of dissent and repression of national minorities,
The detainees, who included an Associated Press photographer and
a U.S. free-lancer, were released late Wednesday after about 12
hours in custody and told to appear in court Thursday.
Asked to comment on the police action in light of concerns about
China's tough stance toward protesters, Carrard said: "The status
of demonstrations is a matter of national law. We're certainly not
going to interfere with any of these procedures."
"If there was violation of the law that's one thing; if it was
abuse and not a violation, that's another," he said.
China is exerting heavy pressure on Russia to stifle protests, a
group opposing Beijing's bid has claimed.
About 15 demonstrators tried to unfurl a banner while standing
on a sidewalk along the Moscow River, several hundreds yards away
from the conference center where IOC officials were meeting.
The banner, nearly seven feet high, had a picture of five bullet
holes in place of the Olympic logo of five linked circles. Riot
police immediately broke up the protest and tried to seize the
"This is the same thing that would happen in China," shouted
protest leader Yangzom Brauen.
After the demonstrators continued to resist, trying to unfurl
the banner again and speak with journalists, police detained
several of them, including Brauen. They carried her, weeping, by
the arms and legs into a waiting police bus.
Police also detained Associated Press photographer Maxim Marmur
and Ilana Ozernaya, an American citizen of Russian origin working
as a free-lancer with Hong Kong's TV-B.
All remained in custody Wednesday evening.
The well-guarded conference center where the IOC is meeting was
abuzz with talk of the arrests on Wednesday, more attention than
the demonstration probably would have received if it had been
allowed to proceed.
"The arrests occurred under a climate of heavy intimidation
from the Chinese government that has permeated Moscow during the
IOC meeting," said a statement from the group, the Free Tibet
Tibetans said that the Chinese Embassy had previously attempted
to block a news conference organized by the Tibetans and pressured
the city authorities to deny them a permit to demonstrate near the
Beijing is widely expected to win Friday when the IOC votes. The
other candidates are Paris; Toronto; Istanbul, Turkey; and Osaka,
Tibetans and other human rights activists oppose awarding the
games to Beijing, saying the move would be seen by the Chinese
government as tacit endorsement of its hard line against dissent
and repressive policies in Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
But advocates of the bid say having the games in Beijing would
encourage China to liberalize because of the intense attention that
the Olympics would focus on the country.
Those detained included Karma Yeshi of the Tibetan Youth
Congress in India, an ethnic Tibetan resident of Moscow and four
Swiss residents, including Brauen, according to the Tibetan Culture
and Information Center in Moscow.
A number of Tibet groups have sent representatives to Moscow to
protest the Beijing bid. The groups planned to demonstrate in front
of the conference center Friday, but Moscow authorities have denied
them a permit, said Ann Callaghan of the Free Tibet Campaign.