British Tibet protester will be deported

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The Independent Online

As the fireworks, pomp and ceremony marked the end of the Beijing Olympics last night, a British Free Tibet protester held by the Chinese authorities for three days without charge heard that she was to be released and deported.

Mandi McKeown, a 41-year-old mother of two from Bristol, was arrested while filming three other Tibetan activists unfurling a "Free Tibet" banner near the Bird's Nest stadium.

She had been told she would be held for 10 days. Her case was raised by Gordon Brown when he met Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday.

The International Olympic Committee has strongly praised China's organisation of the Games, and IOC President Jacques Rogge, declaring the "truly exceptional" Beijing Games closed yesterday, told competitors in the Bird's Nest: "You have shown us the unifying power of sport".

But human rights groups said the Games proved to be even tougher on dissent than they had expected.

Ms McKeown will return to her five-year-old son, Hamish, and three-year-old daughter, Neve.

Eight Americans who were also being held for staging pro-free Tibet protests were also due to be released. The US embassy issued an angry statement at their detention saying it was "disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness."

The sporting success of the Games has largely sidelined the mostly small protests calling for Tibetan independence. Most demonstrators held during the Olympics were swiftly deported, but in the latter stages, some protesters were jailed.

"After two days of negative publicity over its extrajudicial detention of 10 Tibet supporters, the Chinese government is seeking to suppress a story that would have cast a shadow over the closing ceremony of these Olympic Games, which includes a final propaganda push to legitimise China's rule in Tibet, with Tibetans singing and dancing along with other so-called "ethnic minorities," Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet said in a statement.