Two Tibetans arrested during Xi Jinping visit; homes raided

[23 October 2015] Two Tibetans and a Chinese human rights defender were arrested on 21 October for peacefully protesting during the Chinese President’s State Visit to the UK. Their homes were subsequently raided by the police and computer equipment confiscated. All three have been released on bail. Tibet Society calls on the police to drop all charges immediately.

Tibet Society statement
Tibet Society supports the non-violent protests of Sonam, Jamphel and Shao Jiang. Tibet Society calls on the UK police to immediately drop any charges against all three peaceful activists and return their confiscated possessions.

Tibet Society is appalled at the UK police’s heavy-handed approach of dealing with the peaceful protestors and, combined with their approach to place protests as far away from Xi Jinping as possible, questions where the orders for such actions have emanated. There are Chinese security fingerprints over the UK police’s actions.

On the second day of Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the UK, three people were arrested for attempting to hold up the Tibetan flag and messages as the President’s car arrived at Mansion House in London. The two Tibetan women, Sonam (pictured right) and Jamphel (below right), spontaneously decided to wave their flags as the Chinese convoy approached. The Chinese dissident, Dr Shao Jiang, moved into the road to block the motorcade whilst holding messages which read “End autocracy” and “Democracy now”. All three were arrested and held for 24 hours in a local police station.

In a disturbing development, the homes of all three protestors were raided whilst they were in detention. Computers, phones and memory sticks were confiscated by the police.

All three were released on bail the following afternoon, just after Xi Jinping left London for Chequers to meet with David Cameron.

Sonam and Jamphel, members of the Tibetan community living in the UK, said after their release, “This is nothing compared to what Tibetans in Tibet have to live through every day,” adding, “The Metropolitan Police should allow all Tibetans and supporters to freely protest without fear of arrest.”

Dr Shao Jiang (pictured right during a protest opposite Downing Street on 21 October) was a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He was imprisoned for 18 months and regularly harassed by Chinese police after his release. He fled China in 2003 and eventually settled in the UK. He is a Tibet supporter, works with Amnesty International, and is a founder member of the Tibetan Uyghur Chinese Solidarity UK group along with Tibet Society.

Commenting on the Tibetans’ arrest, Tsering Passang, Chairman of the Tibetan Community in Britain, said in a press release, they “should never have been arrested in the first place. Metropolitan Police have completely overreacted to Sonam and Jamphel’s small and spontaneous protest.”

The solicitor representing Sonam and Jamphel, Bill Nash of BSB Solicitors, said, despite no suggestion of violence, “a decision was taken to further arrest for an offence of conspiracy to contravene section 5 of the Public Order Act of 1986.” He added that, “In over 40 years of legal practice I have never previously heard of an arrest for such an offence. This smacks of overreaction to a considerable degree.”

Shao Jiang’s wife, Johanna Zhang, told The Independent that her husband’s arrest and raid on their home revived the “awful” memories of their lives in Beijing following the Tiananmen Square massacre. She said, “The police here in the UK are now doing the same things as in China.”

Further reading:
Tibetan Community in Britain press release: Two Tibetan Women Released on Bail; Homes Searched by Police
Guardian: Activists condemn arrest of Tibetan pair for waving flag at Xi Jinping motorcade
Independent: UK accused of doing China’s bidding after police raid home of Tiananmen Square survivor over peaceful protest
Daily Mail: Tiananmen survivor is arrested outside Mansion House in London after protesting against China’s state visit to Britain