China Detains Pro-Tibet Americans

BEIJING -- Five American blogger-activists and a foreign artist have been detained in Beijing as the government intensifies a crackdown on pro-Tibetan protests at the Olympics, rights groups said on Wednesday.

Students for a Free Tibet said authorities detained on Tuesday five self-styled "citizen journalists" who were in Beijing to promote Tibetan freedom, as well as activist-artist James Powderly.

The Beijing Olympics have not been dogged by the widespread demonstrations that authorities had feared. Several protesters advocating for Tibet independence have nonetheless managed to breach tight security, in one case hanging a "Free Tibet" banner outside the headquarters of the state broadcaster.

China is particularly sensitive to criticism of its rule in Tibet, which Communist troops entered in 1950.

"In relation to foreigners holding demonstrations in Beijing in support of Tibet independence, competent authorities have the right to handle these things according to law," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference Wednesday.

"I'd also like to emphasize that in China, activities that support Tibet independence will be strongly condemned by the Chinese people and will not be welcomed."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said China had blocked more than 50 web sites carrying news or advocating on behalf of pro-Tibetan groups before the games began, reneging on pre-Olympics promises of Internet freedoms.

New York-based Human Rights in China says 24 protesters -- critics of the Communist Party and their family members -- had been detained or put under watch before the Olympics opened.

Many others had been captured in the months prior to silence dissent as global attention turned to the Olympics.

Beijing resident Dong Jiqin said his wife Ni Yulan was jailed in April when authorities began clearing out activists and others they felt might draw media attention away from the games.

"I cannot watch the games," Dong said from his cluttered apartment in the heart of the capital. "I'm afraid my wife isn't safe. We think the Olympics should be held, but I am just not in the mood to watch it."

None of dozens of applications to protest has been approved.

"They wanted to see us stuck in jail so the Olympics would look better," Dong said.