British activists deported after Beijing protest
BEIJING (Reuters) - Four foreigners who unfurled Tibet independence banners in a dramatic protest at Beijing's main Olympics stadium were deported and are expected to arrive home on Thursday, their activist group said.
Two American and two British members of the group Students for a Free Tibet displayed Tibetan flags and banners declaring "One World, One Dream: Free Tibet" and "Tibet will be free" on Wednesday in the first major protest in Beijing before the Games.
Americans Phill Bartell and Tirian Mink were put on a plane for San Francisco. Britons Iain Thom and Lucy Marion were deported to Frankfurt and were flying to London, the group said in a statement.
Bartell said he and Thom scaled a power pole near the heavily guarded Bird's Nest Stadium. He wanted to "shine a spotlight on the Chinese government's lethal military crackdown inside Tibet and its attempt to use the Beijing Olympics to cover up its human rights abuses there", according to the statement.
"As the Chinese government has done everything in its power to silence Tibetan voices at this critical moment, it is imperative that global citizens speak out," Thom was quoted as saying.
China claims followers of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, orchestrated riots and protests across the remote mountain region in March in a bid to spoil the Games that open on Friday.
China's crackdown on the violence sparked anti-China protests which dogged part of the international leg of the torch relay.
The Dalai Lama has repeatedly rejected China's claims and on Wednesday issued a letter welcoming the Games.
(Reporting by Paul Eckert)
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