U.S. Activists Interrogated, Kept Awake

Americans expelled from China for Olympic protests speak about their fears and loss of control during interrogation

2008-08-26
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NEW YORK—U.S. activists detained for protesting during the just-concluded Beijing Olympics say they were questioned for 24 hours before being expelled from China after serving half their 10-day prison sentences.

“What we never expected to happen to any of us—what is incredibly rare to happen to foreign protesters—is actually to end up in a detention center and to be given an absolutely arbitrary sentence of serving 10 days. We were never tried for anything. We were never even charged for anything,” Michael Liss said Monday.

Under Chinese law, detainees can be held for up to 14 days for minor offenses.

Jeremy Wells, who was held along with Liss, said, “It was scary. It was very scary being in there…totally controlled and totally, arbitrarily interrogated and held and kept awake.”

“It was tortuous," Wells said, adding that the situation was worse for those “who didn’t have an embassy working for them from the outside,” such as Chinese nationals and Tibetans.

Eight expelled

The U.S. Embassy said Sunday that eight released Americans—including James Powderly, Brian Conley, Jeffrey Rae, Jeff Goldin, Tom Grant, and John Watterberg—were deported aboard a China Air flight Sunday evening to Los Angeles.

Another U.S. citizen, pastor Eddie Perez Romero of California, returned to California on Monday a day after being detained in Beijing.

Romero painted slogans in two hotel rooms Aug. 5 and tried to make a speech in Tiananmen Square on Aug. 24.

He said he had recorded his acts in China and posted them on the Internet. Romero had been demanding that Beijing free five political and religious prisoners and sign a U.N. human rights accord.

Beijing announced last month it would allow protests in three parks far from the Olympic venues during the games but they had to be approved in advance. Of 77 protest applications filed, none was approved.

Original reporting by Xiao Rong and Zi Jing for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated by Chen Ping. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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