Controversy continues at Beijing Olympics

Tibetan rights campaigners staged a daring protest in Beijing Friday when they rappelled down the half-built new headquarters of state broadcaster China Central Television to unfurl a “Free Tibet” banner over an Olympic Games billboard.

Meanwhile, China is dealing with new controversy over the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

After fake fireworks and fake singers, an official has admitted that the 56 children intended to showcase national harmony were not from the 56 ethnic groups as originally claimed. They were actually all Han Chinese, which makes up 90% of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Organizers played down the significance of the choice.

“It is typical for Chinese performers to wear different apparel from different ethnic groups. There is nothing special about it,” Wang Wei, spokesman for the Beijing organizers, told reporters.

However, protest group Students for a Free Tibet are among many who might see it differently.

Five of their members — three Americans, a Briton and a Canadian — were involved in the protest at CCTV’s HQ, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ iconic building known locally as the Giant Pair of Pants because it resembles a pair of seated legs clad in pants.

“While the Chinese government has built a gleaming new building for its official mouthpiece and its public relations strategy has become more sophisticated, the propaganda it uses to maintain its iron-fisted control over Tibet remains the same,” Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet said in a statement.

“Tibet supporters took action at CCTV today to broadcast a message of truth about the intensifying military crackdown in Tibet and the Tibetan people’s undying resolve to regain their freedom.”

State news agency Xinhua said local police have ordered the protesters to leave the country.

It was the latest in a series of protests by activists who are using the Olympic Games to criticize China for what they see as Beijing’s repressive rule in Tibet, rights abuses and religious restrictions. Other foreign demonstrators have been quickly deported.

“This is a very unwelcome and unacceptable action in China,” said Wang, adding that most of the protesters were not Chinese.

“Tibet is part of China, and the whole world recognizes it. The free Tibet movement is not welcome here. … A small number of people are trying to split the territory, and that is not going to work at all,” he said.

The protest took place a day after the Intl. Olympic Committee urged China to allow foreign reporters at the Games to cover events freely following accusations by a British journalist that he was roughed up by police as he tried to report on a protest.

In its bid to win the Olympics, China promised to loosen its tight grip on the media.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more