Canadians deported from China get heroes' welcome
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, August 9, 2007 9:36PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 6:41PM EDT
Two Canadians who were detained by Chinese authorities for protesting China's rule over Tibet say Chinese police intimidated and denied them the right to speak to Canadian embassy officials.
Sam Price and Melanie Raoul -- members of Students for a Free Tibet -- arrived in Vancouver on Thursday and were met by family and members of the Tibetan-Canadian community, who cheered and greeted the pair with songs.
In Toronto, a similar welcome awaited Students for a Free Tibet executive director Lhadon Tethong.
Price and Raoul were held by Chinese authorities after scaling the Great Wall of China and unfurling a banner demanding Tibet's independence.
Raoul said she had no regrets and would do something similar again. But Price said this was the second time he had been detained in China for protesting against the country's rule over Tibet, and he won't be going back again.
Price unfurled a flag of Tibet when he arrived at Vancouver International Airport hours after Raoul.
Supporters from the Tibetan community held a banner reading ''One World, One Dream, Free Tibet'' -- the same slogan painted on the banner Raoul, Price and four others had draped over the Great Wall on Tuesday. The official slogan for the games is "One World, One Dream."
Raoul hugged Price, handing him flowers and wrapping a Tibetan ceremonial scarf around his neck. She said earlier that she and her fellow protesters were split up for 36 hours while they were interrogated by Chinese authorities.
"We were detained, we were interrogated and we were subjected to psychological deception," said Price. "They told us we had no right to speak to our embassy.''
But not everyone at the airport gave the protesters a hero's welcome. Upon seeing Raoul, a man yelled: "You got your 20 seconds of glory now? Boo!" When confronted by Raoul's father, Yvon, the man continued: "You're mingling in China's affairs in Tibet. We got separatism about to happen here in Canada, with Quebec."
"They should be protesting in ----ing Canada," the man, who declined to give his name, told CTV British Columbia. "I've lived in China, it's my second country. I'm ashamed of these guys. . . . You don't have to go overseas and start protesting."
But Raoul maintained it's necessary to break laws sometimes to bring attention to "bigger laws that are being broken."
"And what's happening in Tibet with human rights abuses there, is the most atrocious law you can break," she told CTV.
Raoul said she slept for only 15 minutes at a time and was worried about what would happen, but that her non-violent action has resulted in changes all over the world, including India and the United States.
She said she and her colleagues were repeatedly told they would spend a long time in China, where they would be punished and not allowed to speak to Canadian embassy officials.
She said Chinese authorities demanded they sign a document with a big red stamp on it. But because the document was all in Chinese, the protesters declined.
They were then told they would be deported and within hours, they were on a plane to Hong Kong.
Lhadon greeted in Toronto
In Toronto, nearly a dozen Tibetan Canadians cheered as Tethong was reunited with her father and brother.
Lhadon, a Victoria, B.C. resident and the executive director of the group, was taken into custody on Wednesday. She had been blogging and posting videos of their demonstration.
She had been in Beijing for the past week, attempting to bring attention to what the group says are China's broken promises to improve human rights leading up to the Games.
Tethong said she drew strength from the plight of Chinese and Tibetan citizens during her detention.
"Whenever I felt afraid or nervous or threatened, I thought about what I was doing compared to what Tibetan and Chinese dissidents are trying to do with no protection," she said, adding: "At least I have a Canadian passport."
Tethong said the protesters exposed the "insecurity" of the Chinese government through the use of modern technology such as laptops and video cameras.
"I think that in itself, that they were so scared of us unarmed protesters, shows their weakness and their insecurity."
Her father, T.C. Tethong, said earlier that he was concerned for the safety of his daughter because of their family's Tibetan name.
"A Tibetan name really triggers a lot of difficulties for Chinese authorities, and she did mention that they did allude to that when they were questioning her," he said.
Being a Canadian citizen helped Lhadon's cause, her father said.
Tethong worked with the Dalai Lama for 15 years and has been active in the Free Tibet movement.
When asked if Canada should boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he said a part of him would like to see that.
"But then on the other hand ... the Chinese people I think really are not the real cause of this problem -- it's the government, it's the system."
Tethong said the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to China thinking it would improve the human rights conditions, but he says the situation has worsened.
"There are more violations of the rights of the Chinese right in Beijing -- their houses being demolished and journalists being barred from reporting all this," he said.
"In Tibet it's far worse because Tibet, being under China, especially the minority group, there are special restrictions which many journalists and reporters don't see."
With reports from The Canadian Press and CTV British Columbia