WASHINGTON - Tibetan protesters in Switzerland say they are frustrated with the Swiss government for allegedly making it more difficult for them to protest a visit by China's leader Xi Jinping.
On Sunday, Swiss authorities gave a two-hour window for the Tibetans to protest before Xi arrived for an official reception in Bern. Some 32 Swiss-Tibetan protesters were arrested as they shouted “Shame on China,” “Free Tibet” and “Don't Deal with Killer.”
One Tibetan man in his 20s was stopped as he attempted to self-immolate, according to Bern police. The Office of Tibet in Switzerland said all of those detained were released later the same day.
The head of the Tibetan association, which organizes the protests, complained that the Swiss government's reluctance in issuing permits will affect protests planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Swiss take advantage?
Tenzin Nyingpo, the president of Tibetan Community in Switzerland, said his organization canceled the upcoming demonstrations after Swiss officials asked the group to withdraw its application for a permit. He said the officials in turn agreed to let them protest Wednesday when Xi visits the United Nation's office in Geneva. On Tuesday, Xi is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, becoming the first Chinese president to participate in the gathering.
Tenzin Nyingpo said Monday the Swiss officials now asked him to either cancel Wednesday's plan or stage a protest only after the U.N. offices are closed.
“As Tibetans, we've compromised our plans to support Swiss government's demands,” Nyingpo told VOA. “But now I feel Swiss officials are taking advantage of us.”
In an email statement, Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, a spokesperson from the Swiss foreign ministry, said, “Demonstrations in Bern are always subject to authorization by the local authorities. In the present case, the demonstration has been authorized within a specific time frame and location.”
Switzerland was one of the first countries to host Tibetan refugees in the early 1960s when Tibetans had fled to India from Chinese occupation of their country.
Today, there are about 3,500 Tibetans living in Switzerland, according to a Swiss Tibetan Community website.