U.S. diplomat criticizes China, seeks Olympic protesters' release

BEIJING -- Washington's top diplomat in China pressed the
government to immediately free foreign activists jailed for
protesting during the Olympics, and criticized Beijing on Sunday
for failing to use the games to show "greater tolerance and

Chinese police have sentenced at least 10 foreigners to 10 days
of detention for protesting during the games, including eight
Americans, a German and a British citizen. The activists were among
small groups of demonstrators who unfurled banners criticizing
China's rule in Tibet in the capital just before and during the

The protesters were quickly dragged away by security forces and,
in the first week of the 17-day event, escorted out of China within
days. But activists caught in the last week of the games have been
kept in custody under rules that allow officials to hold them
without charge for up to 14 days.

British and U.S. officials are seeking the quick release of
their citizens.

Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. said consular officials met with
eight detained Americans on Friday, and that they had not made any
claims of maltreatment at the hands of Chinese officials.

On Saturday, Randt pressed the Chinese government to immediately
release the Americans, the Embassy said in a statement. U.S.
officials would continue to raise concerns about the detentions
with senior Chinese officials.

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

It urged China to show respect for human rights, freedom of
speech and religion.

Britain's Foreign Office also issued a statement, confirming the
detention of a British citizen and urging the Chinese government
"to respect its commitment to freedom of expression." It also
urged British citizens to respect China's laws.

China said it would allow protests during the Olympic Games in
three designated areas and required protesters to apply for protest
permits. But no applications to demonstrate were approved.

The Public Security Bureau did not immediately respond to
requests for comment about the detained foreigners' cases.

The bureau issued a statement Thursday that said a separate
group of foreigners who were arrested Tuesday were ordered to serve
10 days of detention. Police did not identify the detainees, but
activist group Students for a Free Tibet said they were bloggers,
artists and activists from the United States.

The Embassy named the detained U.S. activists as James Powderly,
Brian Conley, Jeffrey Rae, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss and Tom Grant,
a group taken into custody last Wednesday, and Jeremy Wells and
John Watterberg, who were detained on Thursday.

It said Chinese authorities said the group detained Wednesday
would be released Aug. 30. The pair detained on Thursday would be
released Aug. 31.

Separately, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group said AIDS
activist Wang Xiaoqiao, who has been detained for nine months, has
been convicted and sentenced to one year in prison in Xincai, a
county in the central province of Henan. The organization accused
the government of waiting until the Olympics, when the world was
distracted by the games, to sentence Wang.

Phone calls to the Xincai county court and to the news office of
the county's public security bureau were not answered Sunday.